CoatingsPro Magazine

JAN 2018

CoatingsPro offers an in-depth look at coatings based on case studies, successful business operation, new products, industry news, and the safe and profitable use of coatings and equipment.

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114 JANUARY 2018 COATINGSPROMAG.COM Industry Insight T he safety products industry is a competitive environ- ment that continues to evolve as technological advances are adopted to better protect workers. Despite the practice of minimizing hazards through engineer- ing controls, the need for safety equipment is still an essential compo- nent. Workers must still be protected from impacts, cuts and abrasions, falls, burns, toxic chemicals, bacteria, and viruses. ey need personal protective equipment (PPE) that's effective against the hazard for which it's designed. What's changing are the hazards that workers face and the speed with which new hazards may emerge, the awareness of workplace dangers for which there may not have been control measures in the past, and the development of innovative technologies to protect workers from new and old hazards. Evolving Hazards New chemicals, new processes, nanomaterials, biological agents — any time there are new threats to safety or health, workers need reliable and effec- tive PPE. In our global society, threats can appear and spread with frightening speed. ink back to a few years ago with the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, or consider the newer fracking that uses unique mixtures of chemicals. Awareness of hazards are always evolving. Look at a typical construction site today: Everyone is wearing some kind of high-visibility vest. In the past decade, we've come to rely on high-vis- ibility apparel to protect workers on roadways, construction sites, etc. Objects falling from heights are a huge safety concern, and it is easily among the top five hazards on any construction site. Awareness of the risk of noise is increasing as well, making the use of hearing protection increase, too. As the workforce changes, organi- zations and policy must adapt. e increase of immigrant workers and temporary workers could lead to a rise in potential exposures to hazards for workers who may refuse to voice workplace safety concerns out of fear of risking their employment status. An aging workforce may lead to an increase in ergonomic injuries, and the growth of remote and lone workers, categorized as those working alone in isolated areas or not within calling distance of somebody, present fundamental challenges to safety watchfulness. Regardless of specifics, these burdens fall on employers. The Impact on PPE Design Regardless of whether the hazard is old or new, safety equipment manufacturers are constantly refin- ing their products to better meet user needs. ey are making their products more comfortable, better fitting, and adaptable to weather and work environments. ey are using electronics and sensors to detect and protect (think auto-darkening welding filters, noise-sensitive earmuffs, and respirator filter service life indicators). Wearable technologies can already monitor bodily functions and warn workers of stress, and report biometrics and dangerous environmental condi- tions are enabling a more immediate response to safety issues. e buzz around wearable devices continues to build, and employers are looking to such devices as a way to increase worker safety and productiv- ity. More employers are considering the use of wearables to discover things about the work habits of their workers that may not be visible. Collected data generated by wearables can be utilized to make changes to organizational behavior, such as changing workflows or processes to make work safer or more efficient. However, workplaces must be equipped to interpret the amount of data generated by wearables. Data collection could also lead to potential challenges, including information overload, potential data breaches, and other liabilities related to collecting and storing personal infor- mation. Manufacturers of wearable devices designed to improve workplace safety are working with industry partners and policymakers to provide solutions to data complications. Sharing the Responsibility Keeping workers safe is not only the responsibility of the employer; it is also the concern of organizations, and their members. Groups are taking part in the broader conversations around develop- ing PPE and how it affects the safety of workers. CP Photo courtesy of ISEA By Charles D. Johnson, President, International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) Changes in the Workplace and the Workforce

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