An Athletic Approach to Heat Illness

Today I had the opportunity to moderate a panel of four speakers at ASSE’s Safety 2017 that included *only* one safety professional!


The topic of heat illness has been high priority for many years, especially with specific guidance from Cal/OSHA on what employers are required to have in place. Though the majority of session attendees said that they do not work in California, nearly all attendees that have a written heat illness prevention program model their program after the Cal/OSHA Standard.

At the federal level, we have all heard and repeated the “water, rest, shade” message without much further study into the topic. The panel offered some points that were completely new to me, and had me frantically writing notes on the material as well as moderating the session!

  1. Per Gabrielle Giersch of the Korey Stringer Institute, the traditional heat stress and heat related illnesses we work to prevent are independent health conditions. Simply, heat stress is not a progression. (i.e.: heat cramps do not lead to heat exhaustion)
  2. Stacy Ingraham, Ph.D. and Professor of Exercise Science at Crown College in Saint Bonafacius, MN kicked off the discussion on personal risk factors. She explained that muscle fibers and overall body type play an important role in how the body response to heat stress.
  3. Rod Raymond, Elite Athlete and Master Trainer, brought up mindfulness and intention frequently. The short version is that workers should be educated on strategies they can use based on their individual body type.
  4. Joe Conrad, Manager of Safety & Training for Xcel Energy, explained that one of the best things a supervisor can do is to let people know what happens when they do not drink enough water or have insufficient access to shade.

A lot of conversation was centered on hydration and how to coach workers to forego caffeine and energy drinks. Ms. Ingraham noted that many energy drinks available in the United States are banned in other countries due to heart valve complications and other health concerns in children and adults.

Mr. Raymond offered some tips on encouraging workers to be proactive about hydration. His first piece of advices was to eat watery foods like fruits and vegetables. These types of foods are better for digestion and overall gut health. Mr. Raymond encouraged employers to provide practical education to workers about choosing healthy foods. To avoid the sugar cycle, he recommended a beverage recipe:

  1. Prepare hot peppermint tea and allow to cool overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. In the morning, add maple syrup and a dash of salt to the tea.
  3. Sip on this drink all day!

Mr. Conrad noted that there are many challenges with acclimatization and the ability to control the workers’ water and beverage intake. Due to the influence of personal risk factors, education of the workers is key so they can understand the impact of specific drinks on their body systems.

The panel session concluded slightly over the allotted time due to questions about hydration, nutrition, and acclimatization. The session was recorded by ASSE, so if you missed out on the live panel, you will have the ability to watch the video soon.



How’d You Get So WISE?

It’s a rare opportunity in life to be presented the opportunity to be a part of a force – a movement or organization that has momentum, enthusiasm, and hearts in the right places. I’ve had a couple of such opportunities in my life, and right now, the biggest one is ASSE’s WISE.*

*American Society of Safety Engineers Women in Safety Engineering.

As most ASSE volunteer origin stories begin, I was “voluntold” to participate in a more visible and active way by WISE leadership last year. Since 2002, I have extensive ASSE volunteer experience starting with my role as Editor of my Student Chapter’s newsletter and then as Secretary and member of various committees with the Orange County Chapter and now with the Northwest Chapter as a Delegate and Social Media committee member. As I will tell any prospective ASSE member, “the ASSE has always been good to me!”

19225978_10211611729742269_3985568048692817967_n.jpgSafety 2017 hasn’t technically started yet, and WISE has already blown me away with challenging information, smart and open discussions, and lots of FUN!

Today, Sunday, was the 4th Annual Personal Development Retreat presented by WISE. Registration hit capacity with 100 people pre-registered for the event. The event space, generously provided by Encana, was inspiring and a perfect backdrop for the high-level content curated by WISE Administrator Kelly Bernish.

We kicked off the day with introductions and quickly learned that WISE covers the map! (note to self: next year, bring a map to keep track of where WISE Retreaters travel from…)

After introductions, Dr. Cori Wong gave an epic talk on intersectional feminism, inequity, and sexism. I have a feeling today wasn’t the last time Dr. Wong and WISE will interact, and until then, we can watch her Tedx Talk on Feminist Friendship! Dr. Wong brought up so many interesting points that I will personally be revisiting in the months to come. My biggest right-away-takeway from Dr. Wong is that our differences in any group are our strengths. We should think about who is missing from our tables (boards, meetings, etc) and how can we leverage differences for progress?


Susan Skjei, Ph.D. of Naropa University then spoke to us about authentic leadership. She guided us through some thought exercises that definitely challenged many of us by encouraging us to sit with our initial feelings before reacting or responding. Taking stock of our body feelings before reaction allows us to “bring space” when responding to a challenging situation.

Monica Pampell, President of PentaFit, taught us about the power of posture with over a dozen micro-exercises, stretches, or reminders we can use throughout the day to tap into our body and make sure we are projecting our best self. From a simple reminder to breathe (or sing!) to stretches targeting the usual stress holdouts in the body (hips, lower back, shoulders), we were able to move our bodies before our networking lunch.

After lunch, our very own Linda Tapp refreshed our memories on last year’s theme of storytelling. Using the Method of Loci, we were able to re-tell the story of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire using 12 detailed statements within 5 minutes of Linda coaching us! This technique can work for safety training, a conference presentation, or even to remember your grocery list.

Matthew Kaskavitch, Social Media Manager for University of Colorado Denver helped us to hone our social media strategies to reach rock star status. His presentation was entertaining and enlightening as many of us use social media but were not tying it directly to our business or department goals. A viral video would bring instant fame, but social media is more effective when used as a tool.


An original WISE Guy, Julius Rhodes, spoke to us about risk and the resilient mindset. This topic was juxtaposed with the concept of personal branding to really make us think about how we serve others. While marketing ourselves may seem counterintuitive, it is essential for gaining buy-in at our organizations as we lead people and influence them to do the right thing to stay safe!

The retreat was closed by Rachel Esters and her powerful and personal story of transgender inclusion. It was a privilege to hear Rachel’s experience!


I feel wiser after today’s retreat and will refer back to the day’s topics throughout Safety 2017 and beyond. I am extremely grateful to WISE leadership for continuing to provide such progressive and relevant programming for ASSE members! Bring on the rest of the conference!







Hack Your Safety Committee!

If you have a safety committee, chances are it might feel a bit stale. You had great intentions in January, now 5 months into the year you’re back to your old grind. I always tell my clients and students that “safety is not rocket science!” Here’s some simple “hacks” you can use with your safety committee to make sure you start the summer strong and end the year with a feeling of accomplishment. Of course, I’ll want to hear your stories if you implement any of these ideas!

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What Are Your Fundamentals?

I caught part of a podcast today in which Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was interviewed. He kept referring to the fundamentals of basketball as he answered callers’ questions. Even a caller question about working with Bruce Lee compared to John Wooden was met with the F word again – FUNDAMENTALS!

tumblr_n4rlwd1oEt1rujq2eo3_1280.jpgIt got me thinking, “what are my fundamentals of safety?” It’s such a simple concept, and I became a bit frustrated with myself that I couldn’t rattle off a list of 3 to 5 things that guide my actions as a safety professional. I made a voice note to revisit this topic as a blog, and here I am 12 hours later, brainstorming.

To gamify the process, I gave myself 5 seconds to come up with 5 Fundamentals. Here’s the result:

  1. Listen
  2. Research
  3. Follow-through
  4. Clear communication
  5. Fun


I recently facilitated a safety retreat for a large company’s safety team. We kept coming back to classic advice from Stephen Covey, it’s the 5th Habit of highly successful people – “seek first to understand, then to be understood.”  Or as we described it as a group – “listen to understand, not to reply.” People, by nature, want to be heard. As a safety professional, I’ve found that showing your caring side is important towards earning trust of workers, and listening is the simplest path to trust. Caution – the simplest tasks are often the most difficult!


Once I’ve listened to a safety concern or question, I begin to analyze. If I do not have the answer immediately, I let the person know that I will get back to them.  I value staying on top of the latest in technology, legislation, gadgets, and other solutions and concepts related to safety. I approach the work as a lifelong student, aiming to learn something every day. Someone once told me that if you stop learning you may as well die. Harsh, but true!


Just like people desire to be heard, they also want to be validated and treated fairly. When I say I will get back to someone after some research – I follow-through! I’m lucky that this instinct has always come naturally. In fact, this accountability and follow-up was praised by my first supervisor in safety, Mr. Pete Filanc (RIP). I remember him introducing me to his fellow members of the company’s management team before I gave an annual “state of safety” update at their retreat  – he explained that I had quickly earned the trust of the company’s “field forces” by listening to their concerns and actively following up with collaborative and practical solutions in a timely manner. I’ll never forget that moment because it was such high praise from a person I respected and that it was due to something I was doing naturally!


Einstein said it best, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Boom. If I can’t pass the Einstein test, I go back to my other fundamental of Research.


This is another Fundamental that comes naturally to me. If the element of fun is missing from my work, it’s tough to get through the day. I had fun at oppressively stinky and hot wastewater treatment plant jobsites and I have fun conducting training in air-conditioned conference rooms. Sometimes, it’s difficult to find the fun, but keep looking.


What about you? Give yourself 5 seconds and make your own Fundamentals list. Let me know if we share Fundamentals or if you have a completely different take!

The Heat is (Almost) On!

It’s a beautiful Friday morning in Minneapolis! Summer is almost here and our bodies will start acclimatizing to the heat. In the workplace, this adjustment is critical. Heck, even for us Weekend Warriors, it’s important to understand how the heat can impact the body when you’re exerting yourself.

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I was asked to be a guest on the BLR “EHS on Tap” podcast, and the result is a fast-paced, info-packed, and practical refresher on heat illness prevention best practices for employers, supervisors, and workers. You can listen to it here.

For those safety professionals attending ASSE’s Safety 2017 in Denver next month, I’m moderating a panel on this topic with a different approach. The panel is comprised of high-level athletes and coaches, as well as one safety professional from the construction industry. In preparation for this panel, I’ve learned that there is so much that safety pros can learn from athletic trainers who have studied heat illness and the athletes who deal with it directly. I hope to see you there and at other events throughout the conference!

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A Dangerous Report from AGC

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My Google Alerts exploded today with mentions of a “new” report from the Associated General Contractors (AGC): Preventing Fatalities in the Construction Industry. By page 5 of the 30 page report (including cover, title page, and references), I had already opened multiple browser windows to fact-check. I feel this report is dangerous because it presents old data with weak recommendations. The study will likely receive a lot of attention due to AGC’s high profile. It is important to consume the study thoughtfully as part of your research, and not as an exclusive resource.

Right off the bat, it appears that the AGC report used unrevised data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), published by the BLS each year. The AGC’s study years include 2010-2012. For quick comparison, I made the table below to illustrate the data used in the AGC reports vs. the revised CFOI data.

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BLS statistics for 2015 were released in December of 2016, and revisions for 2013-2014 have posted. I am not sure why AGC chose the years 2010-2012 for their study when updated information is readily available. The press release date for the AGC report is April 4, 2017.

The table below includes the data from the years studied by AGC along with all years for which data is available via the BLS. Fatalities have increased by 16% from the last date of the AGC study (2012) to the most recent date that fatality statistics are available (2015). As an industry, we have much work to do as fatalities continue to increase.

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The report begins with a discussion of the Fatal Four. In 2011, one of the AGC study years, fatal work injuries attributed to the Fatal Four were the third lowest annual total since the CFOI began in 1992. Using the most updated data available, in 2015, the Fatal Four accounted for 64.2% of all construction worker deaths. OSHA states that eliminating deaths related to the Fatal Four in construction would save 602 workers’ lives each year. The AGC includes zero mentions of the Fatal Four.


After Region and Sector, the AGC report breaks down fatalities by Season. “Potential Actions” are included at the end of each section to conclude the discussion. The “Potential Actions” related to season fatalities (March through August) are weak, with 3 of 5 recommendations related to heat. The other 2 recommendations are vague at best and include using a buddy system for “risky tasks” and encouraging contractors to benchmark their data against the national statistics. The latter “Potential Action” is repeated in each section of the report.

A quick look at OSHA’s landing page for heat illness indicates that 18 workers died in 2014 due to heat stroke and related causes on the job. This figure is for all industries, so one could infer that the number of heat related fatalities in construction is lower than 18.

The Season section of the AGC report misses the opportunity to challenge their members to amp up their injury and fatality prevention measures during their busiest months. The age-old battle between production and safety is REAL at many jobsites throughout the US and is worthy of discussion at all levels.


The “Potential Actions” suggests that Fridays may be “safer” than other work days as there are more fatalities occurring on Monday through Thursday. Those of us familiar with construction work know that it is quite common to work “four tens” (four days, usually Mon-Thu, 10 hours each day). Fridays present less statistical exposure as there are likely significantly less workers on jobsites in the US on any given Friday.


The report veers off course again in this section where the “Potential Actions” suggest an “all-points-bulletin” be issued to workers to let them know that data suggests that the “lunch hour is the most prone to fatalities.” It is likely that “noon” is used as a time of fatality in contractor reports if the exact time was not known, and this could be skewing the data.

Spending time on data like this is not likely to have much impact on prevention of fatalities. Many of the secondary news sources reporting on AGC’s study cited this “noon” finding as significant and a challenge to long-held beliefs in the industry.

Another way to look at this lunch time fatality phenomenon is that this time of day is near the end of the work day for jobsites that begin work at 6am. Often, the working day will begin with a canned tailgate meeting that does not discuss the safety procedures that should be followed for the specific tasks to be completed during the day. “Noon” represents six hours into such a workday, where a morning break and lunch have already occurred. Safety should be stressed throughout each day and contractors should explore how they can make that happen at their site.


The discussion in this section of the report is weak as well – this really should have been the bulk of the report, with significant guidance provided to AGC members. A chart of event/exposure and the percentage of fatalities related to them is presented, yet not specifically discussed. I wanted more out of this study, so I looked at the top exposure from each Source category identified in the report. These conditions represent the largest source of fatalities in the years covered by AGC’s study and are likely similar to the years 2013 to the present.

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According to the study, firms with less than 10 employees have a higher rate of fatality, yet the AGC guidance in this section is broad and impossible. The “Potential Actions” suggests that AGC members should “consider transferring culture, policies, and procedures to smaller contractors and subcontractors.”

This section is towards the end of the study yet I feel that THIS is an area that AGC could have the most impact! Many firms with less than 10 employees do not have the means to join such an association but could benefit from mentoring by larger firms with access to AGC’s resources. Mentoring could be in the form of sharing safety resources and training or including stronger safety language in contracts.


The data presented in this section is incomplete. It does not include information on the concentration of the age or ethnic groups in the overall working population. The only mention is that “Hispanics” make up 24% of the construction workforce, but it is unclear which year this represents.


This section is another missed opportunity. It ends by stating that public deaths related to “work zone incursions” are much higher than worker fatalities in the same work zones. This could be explored much further to understand the parameters that work zone contractors must work within, i.e.: how much they can lower the speed limit in a work zone, traffic control plan requirements, and the ability to request full shutdowns of roads instead of closures of individual lanes to further protect both the workers and public.

Communication with AAA and DOTs is suggested by AGC’s study, but as an association that represents an industry at the federal and state regulatory levels, the AGC should aim much higher to truly impact work zone fatalities.


The study calls out specific states in the AGC’s Southern Region, but could go further in challenging members in these states to do better. I’m looking at you – Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma (stated as “OR” in the AGC study), Louisiana, and Texas. Specific goals could be discussed and set by local level AGC chapters in these states based on the unique challenges of each state.

An example of a recent and relevant regional resource is New York’s Deadly Skyline Report, published in January 2017 in response to fatalities in 2015-2016 in the state. This level of information is something that all AGC chapters should use as an example for future safety-related publications.


This is one of my longest blog posts. The short study presented by AGC with old data riled me up. As a safety professional, I am always striving to present the most relevant and practical data to my clients and colleagues so they can make informed and proactive decisions. Data moves people to make decisions when presented in an efficient and meaningful way. The AGC study will get attention because AGC is a huge association with a high profile. I encourage everyone receiving the study to look deeper, do some of your own research using, and be thoughtful about how you use the data at your company. 

A Day Without a Woman


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I need to report to work today, so I am taking the opportunity to discuss women in construction and women’s contributions to worker safety and health.

I teach a Construction Safety course as part of a Construction Management program at Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis, MN.

Today, I hope to learn from the class as they learn about some women’s contributions to the field of safety and health and spark some conversation about why a movement like #adaywithoutawoman is important, even in 2017.

Here’s the assignment for class discussion. I’ll break them up into groups and give them time to research and put together a presentation. Please feel free to download this Word document and use in your classroom, board room, or any other forum available to you today. Let me know if you do!


What Keeps You Awake?

Most safety professionals are always on. Always thinking safety and analyzing everyday things from a different perspective than the average person. This incident came up on my Google Alerts today, yes, I have an alert set for “construction fatality,” and it’s been pinging me more frequently than usual lately.


The most recent incident is in Maine involving a worker in a roadway workzone who was struck and killed by a person driving a company vehicle (of a different employer, most likely not related to the workzone).

I do a lot of insurance risk control work, mostly related to workers compensation, auto liability, and general liability. The incident in Maine is the type of situation that I have in mind when evaluating potential insureds’ risk controls for a carrier.

There’s a lot of things that can kill you at a construction site. If that construction site is on a roadway traveled by the general public, vehicles entering your workzone is the top concern. Workers often feel helpless even after setting up a traffic control plan per the rigorous specifications of the authority they are working for. There’s still that unpredictable factor, the driver.

When I evaluate risk controls, the drivers in question are employees. Companies with fleet safety programs are considered more in tune with their exposures and adequately controlling them. But what keeps me awake is not knowing how well the fleet safety program is implemented. It’s an unknown because you can’t be in the passenger seat with every driver of every company vehicle.

Companies with telematics programs in place, beyond GPS tracking of vehicles, are considered the leaders in fleet safety. Telematics provide real-time information about a driver and the vehicle, which is the next best thing to being in the passenger seat. Every safety professional I’ve spoken to who has telematics deployed at their company raves about the ability to track drivers in real time, often with exception notifications making their phone buzz to alert them to excessive speed, heavy braking, or a vehicle in a location it should not be in.

It almost seems like they sleep better.

What keeps you awake? Is there a way you can leverage technology to help? Do you have a success story?

There’s still time to register for the free webinar this week. I’ve partnered with BLR and ProntoForms to discuss their survey related to safety and technology. Let’s take the next step in safety by using real-time data to make real time and lifesaving decisions!

Safety + Tech For Success

I had a great response to my Top 3 Safety Apps post including direct replies from each app mentioned in the post! One of the apps, Haz-Trac even wrote a post about being named in my post, how meta!

I have the opportunity to collaborate on a webinar to discuss BLR’s recent safety and technology survey of 450+ safety professionals. The webinar will be conducted with Mark Scott of ProntoForms  on January 25, 2017, register here, it’s free! The full report of the survey can be downloaded here, which I highly suggest you do, whether or not you can attend the webinar.

In preparation for the webinar, Mark and I discussed the results and did a bit of mutual brain picking as we represent the two industries: safety and technology. Overall, Mark was surprised by the low use of technology, forms, and mobile applications in the industry. As a safety pro, I was NOT surprised! Here’s why:


“If it’s not documented, it didn’t happen” is ruining our vibe. As most industries move towards greener and paperless solutions, a lot of safety activities still rely on pen and paper. I challenge you to seek out paperless documentation, which leads me to…


We don’t trust the cloud. Mark pointed out to me how most of us almost require instant gratification and access to information, photos, and people, yet in the workplace, we are settling for a delay in such information. Why shouldn’t we demand instant access to real-time safety information? Wouldn’t it make sense for a plant manager to be able to tap 2-3 times on his cell phone to access her site’s current performance related to key performance indicators?

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We are used to quarterly and annual reporting, weekly or even daily tracking and analysis of data is unheard of. If there’s one lesson that jumped off of the survey results report and slapped me in the face it was this – finding a tool that can help you analyze data and provide relevant information you can use to make adjustments and corrections in real time is invaluable to a safety pro.

I’d like to hear from you! Check out the free webinar next week, ask questions, comment here, or on social media. We’ve got to grow as a profession and leverage the technology available to us to keep our workers safe.

Top 3 Safety Apps

I’m often asked for my recommendations for applications that make the life of a safety pro just a little bit easier. The mobile app landscape is vast and varied, so it is hard to sort the good apps from the bad, or as I asked in 2015, “App or Crap?” And again in part two of App or Crap. Since over a year has passed since these posts, I wanted to make sure to provide an update!

To recap, I suggest using a four-way test when evaluating any application you use, whether for safety or for your personal life.

  1. Is the app reputable, safe, and secure?
  2. Will the app help me to do something that I actually need help with?
  3. Is the app easy to use and intuitive?
  4. Does the app save me time?

Three of the four tests are alternate ways of asking “does it add value?” This is a question I’ve been asking about everything in my life since becoming an avid listener of the Minimalists podcast. I find that answering the value question is especially helpful for the usual time-suckers like social media and mobile apps.

My initial posts on safety apps included some fairly “safe” suggestions:


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Here’s my top 3 safety program apps that I personally find useful or that others have found useful and have recommended to me:


  1. Haz-Trac

I’m loving this app by Hybrid Risk Solutions because it takes a holistic approach to site safety through the use of the mobile application. The easiest way to describe it is a perpetual safety inspection. However, your workers won’t groan at the thought of another safety inspection. Users can take a photo and label it by priority. The cool part is that users are encouraged to look for hazardous conditions as well as positive conditions. Users can also report their peers as safety leaders. The app can be stand-alone or a company can make it live with an incentive element using the information the app tracks.


2. Safety Reports

This app has been around for awhile and many users find value in the regulatory tie-in. The app has inspection templates based on OSHA, MSHA, and DOT standards. There are multiple pricing models that allow the client to customize their app for the most practical use at their sites.


3. iAuditor

For many safety pros, this was their gateway to the world of mobile apps! All of the safety pros I know who have used this app preferred to use the free version, so I do not have experience with the customizable paid version.

Do you have a favorite safety app? Let me know in the comments or on twitter @theferrigroup


I’m collaborating with BLR & ProntoForms on a free webinar on technology trends and safety on 1/25/2017, register here.