Sunday, December 11, 2011

How to Keep Your Emergency Exits Free of Obstructions

Both OSHA regulations and the NFPA Life Safety Code require unobstructed egress from buildings. The Life Safety Code states that "means of egress shall be free of obstructions that would prevent its use"; while the OSHA requirements of 29 CFR 1910.36 (b)(4) require exits to be "...maintained so as to provide free and unobstructed egress from all parts of the building or structure at all times when it is occupied."

One of the most common discrepancies found during safety inspections of facilities is emergency exits obstructed by stored materials. Emergency exits are often times located in quiet alcoves that seem ideal locations to "temporarily" store boxes or furniture.

Vigilance is required to keep emergency exits free of obstructions. One method is to make it inspections of emergency exits a part of security officers daily rounds. It is common for security guards to perform inspections of exterior doors to ensure they are locked. By asking the security guards to also verify that the exits are free from obstructions you can increase the safety of your facility with little to no added expense.

By using an inexpensive barcode scanner your employees can easily record the results of their inspections.

Results are automatically uploaded to our easy to use web application. If any blocked emergency exits are found, messages can be sent automatically to the appropriate people for corrective action.

By adding these inspections to existing facilities inspections you avoid the burden of creating a new inspection route. By using  barcode scanners you will eliminate unnecessary paperwork related to tracking completed inspections and identifying missed inspections.

For a more detailed description of how FieldDataPro can help you manage Safety Inspection data, see this blog post (How it all works).

Call us at (919) 323-3703 to set up a demonstration.

For more information, email us at

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Train Security Guards to Perform Safety Inspections

A client of ours was struggling to get their required safety inspections completed. They simply had too much work to do and not enough people in the maintenance department to get it all done. They came up with a unique solution to the problem – integrating safety device inspections into the security guards’ rounds. 

The periodic safety device inspections that the maintenance department is responsible for include:
  • Weekly eyewash safety shower testing
  • Monthly emergency light test
  • Quarterly automatic electronic defibrillator inspections
  • Monthly lighted exit sign test
  • First-aid kit inspections
  • Satellite waste collection weekly inspections
  • Monthly SPCC inspections
The client maintains a 250,000 square foot manufacturing facility. These inspections were taking over 60 man-hours per month to complete. Meanwhile, the maintenance department was being squeezed for resources. Vacant positions were not being filled; new positions were not being considered. 
At the same time, the company was putting a strong emphasis on staying compliant with regulatory inspection requirements.
This customer came up with a neat solution, by training their security guards to complete many of the safety inspection tasks and integrating the safety inspections into their security rounds.

Security Guard Rounds
As is common in many facilities, the security guards at our client’s facility perform rounds each shift. These rounds include roving the facility and verifying that all exterior doors are secure and all important offices are locked. The fact that the security guards already travel throughout the facility makes them ideal candidates for performing these inspections.
Most of the inspections listed above take about one minute per device to complete. However, the average travel time to each device is 3-5 minutes. So up to 85% of the time devoted to safety inspections is travel time to and from each device. By adding these inspections to the security guards’ rounds, the travel time is eliminated, since the guards would be traveling to these areas to perform their security functions anyway.
Buy-in from Security
Any time you shift responsibilities from one group to another, it is important to get buy-in from the folks who will be assuming the new responsibilities. Oftentimes the receiver may feel the new responsibilities are being dumped on them without consideration for the responsibilities they already have. To get buy-in from the security group, the maintenance department presented a plan that included:
  • Maintenance acknowledged that they were asking security to operate outside their traditional scope of work and expressed appreciation for security’s assistance.
  • Security would be provided with training to perform the inspection tasks.
  • Oversight for the safety inspection program would remain with the maintenance department. The purpose here was to take advantage of the elimination of travel time, not to eliminate the administrative responsibility.
  • The new responsibilities would require security to perform little to no added paperwork. The inspection results would be collected via easy-to-use “key fob” barcode scanners. 
  • The maintenance department would serve as the “sweeper” at the end of each month. They would identify the inspections that may have fallen through the cracks and commit resources to complete the inspections.
  • The two departments would meet after three months to assess the program. Assumptions made at the outset of the program (that the added responsibilities would be absorbed by security with no additional labor requirements, etc.) would be reviewed to see if they were valid or if adjustments needed to be made.
Advantages for Security
The primary advantage for the security guards was career development. Security guards would be trained in a new field, namely safety. They were receiving both training and hands-on experience in conducting a variety of OSHA- and NFPA-required safety topics. This could possibly open up career paths for them as facilities technicians, EHS technicians, or fire protection inspectors.
Another advantage for the security guards was adding variety to a job that could at times be mundane.
Inspection Selection
Selecting the right inspections for the security guards to conduct was important. Care was taken to select tasks that would minimize the labor time requirements added to the guards.
Emergency light and lighted exit sign testing were a natural fit, because most were located in areas the guards were already traveling through.

Eyewash and safety shower testing was not included, because these tests often require equipment (buckets and hoses) and time to deal with the flushed water.
AED inspections were included because they were quick and easy to do.
First-aid kit inspections were not included, because inventorying the kits could take a significant amount of time.
Dividing up the Inspections
The security guards work 12-hour shifts. Security requested that the safety inspections be assigned to the night shifts only, since the day shift spent more time each day dealing with customer requests (office lockouts, HR terminations, etc.). There are two night shifts, front-end nights and back-end nights. There are four weeks in a typical month. The list of required safety device inspections was divided into eight distinct routes:
  • Front-End Week 1
  • Back-End Week 1
  • Front-End Week 2
  • Etc.
Each shift would receive a list each week detailing which safety device inspections would be completed that week. Each list included 10-12 emergency lights, 6-8 exit signs. and 1-2 AEDs.
Short training presentations were created for each inspection task. The presentations were created in PowerPoint and included background information about what function the device that is being inspected performs, frequency of required tests, and detailed instructions with pictures showing how to perform the test. The presentations concluded with a short quiz that the employee could print out and hand in as proof that they had successfully completed the training.
The PowerPoint presentations were then published as PDF documents and posted on the company intranet site so that they were easily available to the guards day or night.

The training was self-directed. Guards were asked to complete training when it was convenient for them. This eliminated the need to schedule the off-shift guards to come in for training classes on overtime.
Managing the Inspection Completion
Small “key fob” barcode scanners were used by the security guards to track the inspection results.

Barcode labels were posted at each inspection location.

When the scanner was connected to a desktop computer at the end of the shift, the inspection results were automatically uploaded to the web application, FDP Plant. FDP Plant is an easy-to-use web application that is used to set up the inspection points, create schedules, and manage the inspection results.

At the beginning of each week, the guards receive an automatic report via email that details the inspections to be completed that week. At the end of the week they receive another report detailing which inspections were not completed, and any discrepancies found during completed inspections.


This is a unique solution to a common problem. The solution was made possible by the adaption of barcode technology to safety inspections and by the willingness of the two departments to work together.

The client is in the early stages of implementation, so we will report back with any lessons learned.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Turkey Frying Safety Tips

I regularly perform job safety analyses as part of my job, so when I started frying turkeys a few years ago I was very conscious of the hazards. The primary hazards are related to the 400 F oil used to fry the turkey. These include:
  • 400 F oil can burn you severely.
  • Oil can also catch fire it rolls over the side of the pot into the fire.
  • A frozen turkey dropped into hot oil will explode causing both of the above
Over the years I have come up with the following precautions to take when frying a turkey.
  1. Turkey must be fried outside.
  2. Do not fry on a deck or porch.
  3. Clear out an area to set up your fryer. Rake leaves and brush from around the fryer.
  4. Remove any trip hazards (toys, oil bottles, etc) from around the fryer. You do not want anyone tripping into the oil.
  5. Be mindful of keeping small children and dogs away from fryer. Barricade with lawn chairs if necessary.
  6. Make sure your turkey is thawed before frying.
  7. Wear long sleeve shirt.
  8. Wear leather work or gardening gloves when working near the oil (lowering the turkey in or removing from oil).
  9. Wear safety glasses whenever top is off of heated oil.
  10. Adult supervision around turkey fryer at all times while oil is heating and while oil is hot.
Be safe and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Low Cost Internet Access for Low Income Families

The FCC, along with companies like Microsoft, Best Buy and all major cable companies, are rolling out a program where low income families can get broadband internet access for $9.95 a month.

The program, which will start next summer, is available to families with children eligible for free lunches in school.

The inititive is called Connect-To-Compete, and also includes access to low cost computers.

Read the full article here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Weekly Testing of Plumbed Eyewash Safety Showers


OSHA Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1910.151(c) requires that suitable facilities for drenching or flushing of the eyes and body be provided near locations where any person may be exposed to injurious corrosive materials.

Many facilities install combination eyewash safety showers to meet this requirement. These are typically plumbed, or connected to a continuous source of domestic water.

Flushing exposed body parts within seconds immediately following an eye injury or chemical splash is critical to minimizing damage. Emergency eyewashes and showers often go unused for long periods of time. When a chemical exposure occurs, these devices must function properly. Regular testing and inspection of combination eyewash safety showers is very important.

Inspection Requirements

OSHA does not provide specific testing requirements for eyewash and safety showers. Instead, OSHA defers to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z358.1 standard for the requirements of all plumbed emergency eye, eye/face wash and emergency shower equipment.


Based on the ANSI Z358.1 standard, plumbed eyewash safety showers should be inspected weekly to ensure they are operable.

Inspection Instructions

At a minimum, the inspection should include verifying water flow to the eyewash nozzles and safety shower and that there is a clear, unobstructed path to the eyewash safety shower.

  1. Verify there is a clear path to the eyewash / safety shower.
  2. Ensure no materials are stored under unit.
  3. Verify water supply to safety shower. Flush water for 30 seconds.
  4. Verify water flow to eyewash. Flush water for 30 seconds.
  5. Ensure dust caps are on eyewash nozzles.
  6. Record inspection results.
  7. Initiate corrective action for deficiencies identified during inspection.

Required Tools and Supplies

Barcode scanner to record inspection results.
5 gallon bucket to catch flushed water.
Safety Shower Test Curtain
Spare eyewash dust caps

Labor Time Requirements

It typically takes less than 5 minutes to perform a weekly inspection of and eyewash safety shower. However, the following need to be considered when estimating labor time requirements for completing weekly tests:
  • Labor estimates should consider travel time to and from each eyewash.
  • Inspections in clean room environments require additional time for gowning.
  • Collection and disposal of flushed water must be considered.
  • Water flushed from an eyewash is easily caught in a 5 gallon bucket.
  • A test curtain may be needed to catch the water while testing a safety shower.
  • Water from your tests can create slip hazards. Allow time for cleaning up water.
Recording Inspection Results Using FieldDataPro

Managing the inspection of eyewash safety showers scattered around a large facility or campus can be challenging. FieldDataPro can help you use barcode technology to track when each unit is inspected and more importantly, identify units that are not inspected or have deficiencies that need to be corrected.

When collecting eyewash inspection data with FieldDataPro you can use either the Detailed method or the Pass/Fail method. Either method makes effective management of the inspections easy and eliminates paperwork and manual record keeping.

With the Detailed method, the inspector records the status of each inspection point for each unit as shown in the image below.

With the Pass/Fail method, the inspector creates a timestamped record indicating that the device was inspected, and whether it passed inspection or was found to have deficiencies.

For a more detailed description of how FieldDataPro can help you manage Safety Inspection data, see this blog post (How it all works).

Call us at (919) 323-3703 to set up a demonstration.

For more information, email us at

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pipe Fitters Exposed to Acid Waste, Safety Shower Saves Day

Late last year two pipe fitters were exposed to acid waste when a pipe broke at a Durham manufacturing plant.

According to news reports: "The contractors immediately washed the acid off in nearby showers, which are located throughout the building as a precaution"

The incident occurred at a Cree, Inc. manufacturing plant. Cree uses handheld data collection software from FieldData Pro, Inc. to manage their eyewash / safety shower inspection program.

Luckily, eyewashes and safety showers are not used every day. But because of their infrequent use they must be tested regularly to make sure they will function when they are needed.

Luckily for the two exposed employees, the Facilities Department at Cree takes this responsibility very seriously.

To read the entire news article, click on the following link:

Cree Eyewash News Article

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Mid State Safety Council Annual Workshop

Attended the Mid State Safety Council's Annual Workshop today in Mebane. Heard alot of good speakers discussing topics like Accident Investigation, Emergency Preparedness, Workmans Comp, and Safety Leadership.

David Leonard, from the Alamance County Fire Marshall's office spoke about Emergency Preparedness and stressed how companies must be aware of threats outside their fenceline. He gave an example of a train / vehicle collision that shut down part of Mebane for a few hours last year.

I particularly enjoyed Mel Harmon's (NC Industrial Commission) presentation on Safety For Supervisors. He is a very entertaining speaker and made some excellent points. One that stuck with me was the fact that managers / supervisors who think nothing of disciplinary action for folks missing work or not making production goals fail to discipline employees that break safety rules. He offers a four hour course, "Safety for Supervisors" that he will conduct at customer facilities. I hope to take this course soon. It appears to be a nice mix of leadership and safety training. These are two areas most of us could do better at.

For information on this course check out this link:

Safety for Supervisors

Friday, October 7, 2011

Electric Vehicles, National Security and Country Fried Steak

As an engineer and keen observer of my surroundings, I have come to the conclusion that the Cracker Barrel Restaurant chain, one of the nations leading purveyors of comfort food, holds the key to breaking our nations dependence on foreign oil.

I believe the day is coming where there will be more electric vehicles on the road than gasoline engine vehicles. Switching from gasoline to electric vehicles will decrease our oil consumption thereby lowering our dependence on foreign oil. The less oil we import, the less power we are giving to rouge states like Venezuela or Iran.

Don't get me wrong, there are still hurdles to overcome (battery technology, manufacturing costs, etc). But that day is coming.

What does Cracker Barrel have to do with this?  Cracker Barrel has the ability to address two of the major limitations of electric vehicles, travel range and refueling time. They can do this by installing public charging stations at each on their locations.

If you have ever travelled this great country via interstate highway, you may have noticed that Cracker Barrels are all located on interstates and are spaced less than 4 hours apart. I learned this years ago when, working as a field service engineer, I often drove alone 8 to 12 hours, to get to a job. At the time there was no XM or Sirius radio so once you got away from a major city your listening options were limited. Someone turned me on to Books on Tape. In 3-4 hours you could have a condensed version of a book read to you by a B level star. Not my first choice for entertainment, but it made the traveling easier.

Cracker Barrel was very clever and would rent you these books on tape. I would pick one up, listen to it and by the time I was done (3-4 hours) would be coming up on the next Cracker Barrel. 15 years ago I could easily navigate from Raleigh to Muscle Shoals or Paducah, bouncing from Cracker Barrel to Cracker Barrel.

One of the major limitations of electric vehicles is range. With current battery technology you can only travel for a few hours before needing to charge the batteries. This makes them practical for local travel, but not so practical for road trips. If each Cracker Barrel installed charging stations, we would have a network of charging stations every 150 to 200 miles along our interstates. This would make road tripping in EV's possible.

Another limitation of electric vehicles is charging time. As drivers of gasoline engine vehicles, we are used to being able to pull into a gas station, fill up our tank and pay before the song that was playing when we pulled into the station ends. Say 3 minutes start to finish.

The best available chargers take 10 to 15 minutes to recharge the batteries in an electric car. That amount of time will take some getting used to. No one that I know will want to stand next to their car in a charging station for 15 minutes waiting for it to charge. But they may like to wander around an old timey Country Store, looking at rocking chairs, stick candy and John Deere paraphernalia. Or better yet, sit down and enjoy the awesomeness that is Grandpa's Country Breakfast, which includes Two Eggs cooked to order with Grits and your choice of Fried Apples or Hashbrown Casserole and Chicken Fried Chicken or Country Fried Steak.

I like solutions that are win - win. This is one of those. Our nation breaks it's dependence on foreign oil, Cracker Barrel gets a whole new set of customers and we all get Country Fried Steak.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Include Business Process Mapping in Your Software Implementation

Whether you are installing a data management system like FieldData Pro, a maintenance management system (CMMS) or EHS management software, be sure to think through how you plan to use it before you start the system up. If you can, take the time to map your business processes so you can define and document how you will do basic things like:

  • Naming convention for assets or locations
  • Who will be able to create new records
  • What reports will be reviewed, by whom and on what schedule
It has been our experience that the user experience of any business software is enhanced if business processes are defined and documented up front. Because of this, FieldData Pro, Inc. employs implementation specialists experienced in documenting the business processes involved in a safety inspection program that uses handheld computers and mini barcode scanners.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Great Time at Carolina Star Safety Conference

I enjoyed spending the last two days at the Carolina Star Safety Conference. I had the pleasure of meeting many people from a wide variety of industries, from mining to pickles, jet engines to batteries.

The group included companies with established Carolina Star Safety programs as well as companies that are just starting that journey.

All had the common goal of creating safe work environments and cultures that promote safety and safe behaviors.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

How do you document your safety equipment inspections?

Most facilities are required to perform periodic inspections of safety devices. These often include several types of safety equipment that are located at many locations around a facility or campus, including:
  • Monthly Fire Extinguisher Inspections
  • Weekly Eyewash Testing
  • Quarterly Fume Hood Flow Checks
  • Monthly Fire Aid Kit Inspections
There are several ways to document these inspections. These include

Work Order
Local Tag
Electronic Data Collection

Work Order - In many cases the documentation for safety device inspections will consist of a work order that is generated periodically. The work order serves as a reminder that the task needs to be done. It also allows the costs associated with effort (labor, materials) to be attributed to the effort. One disadvantage of using a work order as the sole documentation is the lack of granularity of whether a specific device was inspected, when it was inspected and whether any deficiencies were found.

Local Tag - Safety inspection documentation often involves tags at the individual devices. These tags are then dated and initialed when the inspection is performed. Tags are commonly used to record inspections for eyewashes and fire extinguishers. One benefit of the local tags is that the occupants in the area can easily see when the device has been tested or inspected. A disadvantage of relying on local tags for documentation is that the manager responsible for ensuring the inspections get done can not determine easily if any devices are not being inspected. Often times this verification is done in an annual audit, which is very time consuming and may allow devices to go months without inspection.

Electronic Data Collection - Safety device inspections can also be documented electronically using handheld computers with barcode scanners. In this method, a barcode label is placed at each device location. The barcode contains identifying information about the safety device(s) at the location. After scanning the barcode the user may be prompted to answer a few questions about the device inspection. Timestamped results of the inspection are saved to a database. Managers can easily determine if any inspections are being missed, minimizing the risk of device inspections "falling through the cracks" and the safety equipment not being capable of performing when needed in an emergency.

Our software solution, which includes the mobile application FDPMobile and the web application FDP Plant, is designed to make very effective management of safety device inspections extremely easy. With no added effort on the part of the inspector(s) or managers, you can havedetailed time stamped records of your inspections and easy to use reports that help identify missed inspections. For more information follow this link. (FDP)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

FieldData Pro to be at Carolina Star Safety Conference

FieldData Pro is proud to sponsor the 2011 Carolina Star Safety Conference. It will be held on September 14-16 at the Joseph S Koury Convention Center in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Come by and visit our table and we will be happy to show you how our software can help you set up a world class safety inspection program.

Carolina Star Safety Programs

The Carolina Star Programs are administered by the NC Department of Labor and are designed to recognize and promote effective safety and health management.  In STAR, management, labor, and OSH establish a cooperative relationship at a workplace that has implemented a strong program:
  • Management agrees to operate an effective program that meets an established set of safety criteria.
  • Employees agree to participate in the program and work with management to ensure a safe and healthful workplace.
  • OSH initially verifies that the program meets STAR criteria.  OSH then publicly recognize the site's exemplary program and remove the site from routine scheduled inspections lists.  (OSH may still investigate major accidents, valid formal employee complaints, and chemical spills.)
  • Becoming a STAR participant shows employees and the community that your company is a leader in safety and health.
There are different levels within the STAR Program:

Carolina Star—Recognizes worksites that are self-sufficient in their ability to control hazards at the worksite.
Rising Star—Recognizes worksites that have good safety and health programs but must take additional steps to reach Carolina Star quality.
Building Star—Recognizes construction worksites that have Carolina Star quality safety and health programs but require demonstration of approaches that differ from current Carolina Star requirements.
Public Sector Star—Recognizes state agencies and local governments for their leadership and success in providing a safe and healthy work environment.

The 2011 Carolina Star Safety Conference will be held on September 14-16 at the Joseph S Koury Convention Center in Greensboro, North Carolina(conference).

For more information on Carolina Star Safety Programs visit the NC Department of Labor's website at nclabor.

Monday, September 5, 2011

ConAgra Plant Explosion - Garner, NC

In June 2009 there was an explosion at the ConAgra plant in Garner, NC. This plant was one of two facilities where ConAgra made Slim Jim meat like products. Gas that had been purged into the building as part of the installation of a new gas fired water heater accumulated in the room and exploded, killing four people and destroying the building.

ConAgra has since shut the plant down and is consolidating Slim Jim production at a facility in Ohio. ConAgra has been very generous to the community of Garner, which lost 700 jobs with the plant closing. ConAgra is giving the 108 acre manufacturing facility to the town along with $500,000 towards business development efforts. They also donated $2.5 million towards the construction of a new community center.

The US Chemical Safety Board investigated the explosion and has since made recommendations for changes in industrial practices in regards to the purging of natural gas into a building. When installing new gas fired equipment you need to release some natural gas from the new piping in a effort to get all of the air out of the pipes. It has been practice by some to vent this into the room they are working if the room was ventilated, as most mechanical rooms are. US CSB is now recommending that the vented natural gas be piped to a safe location outside the building. To read the CSB's recommendations follow this link(GarnerCSB).

It is a shame that 4 people had to lose their lives and 700 people lost their jobs to learn this lesson.

Good luck to the Town of Garner in their efforts to find someone to take over the plant. It is a great location, right off of I-40, not too far from I-95.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Cycling the New River Trail - Foster Falls to Fries

One of my favorite trails is the New River Trail in southwest Virginia. It is 57 miles long and runs from Galax to Pulaski, with a spur that runs to Fries (New River Trail website).

On a recent day I parked at Foster Falls, which is at the approximate halfway point of the trail. This area is easy to access off of I-77 (exit 24), has plenty of parking, a gift shop to buy snacks and drinks and campsites.

From Foster Falls I headed south towards Fries. About 1.2 miles from Foster Falls is Shot Tower State Park.

View of Shot Tower from Trail
The Shot Tower is pretty neat. It was built more than 150 years ago to make ammunition for early settlers. See this link for a description of how shot towers worked (shot towers). The trail rides along the base of the shot tower. You can stop here and walk up to see the tower or continue on.

Not too far down the trail you will get to Austinville, where you will see the remnants of an old lead processing facility. The smoke stacks that were there a few years ago are gone now, but the large empty field next to the river is an eeiry indicator that something used to be there. There is an old structure next to the tracks that was used for loading / unloading the trains. If you jump off the trail at this point and ride down Store Hill Road about 1/4 mile you will see a memorial flying a Texas state flag along with a Virginia state flag and US flag. This is a memorial to Stephen F. Austin, the father of Texas. He was born in this area, and his family ran the lead mining / processing operations before they moved west.

Continuing south on the trail you will pas through a railroad tunnel and across several railroad bridges as you ride along the New River.

In Ivanhoe you can see some cool industrial artifacts, including the Allis Chalmers Co. turbine looking thing in the picture below.

I think this turbine came out of the hydro-electric plant at Buck Dam, which is a liitle farther down the trail. Past the Buck Dam you will see Byllesby Dam, with an even larger hydro electric plant. This one, seen in the picture below, appears to be operational.

Two and a half miles past Byllesby Dam you reach a fork in the trail, at Fries Junction. If you bear to the left, across the bridge in the picture below, you will go to Galax. On this trip I took the trail to the right and rode on to Fries (pronounced freeze, as the lady in the convenience store corrected me). It is 5.5 miles from Fries Junction to Fries.

At Fries I found the only store along the ride.This was at the Blue Cat on the New (bluecat). This was a oasis on the trail, convenience store with full grill. Has a really cool deck overlooking the New River. I bought some oatmeal cream pies and mountain dew here and ate it on the deck, watching the folks tubing the river scramble to their cars as the thunderstorm approached.

I finished my snack and got back on my bike and peddled back to Foster Falls. The first 18 miles back was in a severe thunderstorm. Every few miles there is some sort of shelter where I would stop and catch my breath. The last 6 miles were fairly peaceful.

If you get a chance to ride the New River Trail I strongly encourage you to do so.

Rails to Trails

One of my passions is cycling on Rails to Trails. These are old railroad beds that are converted to trails. They are often suitable for cycling, hiking or riding horses.

Riding on Rails to Trails has several unique advantages:

  • Riders don't need to compete with cars and trucks like you do when riding on the road.
  • No grueling hills. The old trains preferred gradual inclines/declines to steep hills. When they built the tracks they blasted the mountains to get the grade they wanted, which was slow steady incline or decline.
  • Interesting environments. The train tracks went through small towns, ran along the backside of power plants and industrial plant, cut across rivers and through mountains. On most of the rail trails I have ridden you can find remnants of our industrial past. Old coal hoppers, derricks, smoke stacks can often be seen along side the tracks. I find all this stuff interesting and often stop at these old sites to eat a snack or drink some water and try to figure out what used to be there.
To find out where you can find rail trails in your areas, go to I often visit this site before I travel to an area to see if I can sneak in a ride while traveling for business or with the family.

To help protect and expand our nations network of rail trails join the Rails to Trails Conservancy, They are a great organization with a mission that includes preserving the old rail cooridors as well as helping our nation become healthier by promoting trails as a means to excercise and a healthier lifestyle.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Contingency Planning For Eyewash / Safety Showers

When a facility has corrosives onsite, it is required that drenching facilities be readily available. These drenching facilities could include an eyewash, eye/face wash, shower or combination eye/face wash shower depending on the amount of possible exposure to the chemical by the employee. This requirement is found in the OSHA Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1910.151(c).

If you have plumbed eyewash / safety shower(EWSS) installed they must be tested weekly to verify that they work properly.

What do you do if you find an EWSS that does not work? Do you stop all activities that involve chemical handling in that area? For a manufacturing plant, hospital or commercial laboratory that could very expensive.

What happens if the water supply to multiple EWSS's is unexpectedly shutdown?

It is important to do some contingency planning so you are not caught off guard if you lose some or all of your eyewash safety showers. Here are some things to consider when doing this planning:
  • Communication needs to be part of any effective plan. Make it part of your procedures to notify the occupants of affected area if their eyewash safety showers are out of service. Emails, overhead announcements and posting signs may play parts in your communication plan.
  • It is helpful to maintain a fleet of spare, portable eyewashes safety showers. The number you keep on hand depends on the size of the facility. Portable eyewashes need to be maintained too. Be careful when lending these out for construction projects, as they do not always show back up.
  • Clearly mark that the out of service eyewash safety shower is out of service. Use yellow caution tape to block access to it. If you can not place a portable unit at the same location, be sure to have a sign at the location directing people to the nearest working eyewash safety shower.
It is common to do contingency planning for critical cooling systems, electrical power or plant water supply. This same level of planning and analysis should be applied to the safety systems thaat protect our employees.

Review our early posts a detailing the FieldDataPro solution can be used to set up a very effective safety inspection program. It is especially useful when trying to manage weekly testing of eyewashes that are distributed across a large campus or facility.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Read a Good Article About Operator Rounds

Written by Sam McNair at Life Cycle Engineering. Follow the link below:

Discusses really looking at the data you are asking your operators to record during their rounds. Operator rounds are an integral part of maintaining a reliable plant, but if you are asking your employees to spend a great deal of time recording data that no one ever looks at or uses they will grow frustrated.

During an implementation of our handheld data collection solution, we at FieldDataPro encourage our clients to review each Point of Interest they are asking their employees to record and ask them:

  1. Why is this piece of data useful?
  2. How will this data be used?

If they can not answer these questions we ask them to reconsider including it in the operator rounds. To read a case study of how FieldDataPro solution helped improve Operator Rounds at a manufacturing plant follow the link below:

Friday, July 22, 2011

Pressure Gauge Accuracy - Quick Gauge Accuracy Check

Before I start troubleshooting with gauges I check to see if the gauges that are installed  have been calibrated within the last year. I look for a sticker on the back of the gauge with a calibration date on it. If the plant does not calibrate its gauges of the particular gauge is out of calibration I do a quick accuracy check of the gauge. To do this I carry with me two adjustable wrenches, a couple of small (2") but high quality gauges to use as test gauges, and whatever PPE is appropriate for the environment you are working in and fluid you are working with.

Quick Gauge Accuracy Check
  1. Record the pressure shown on the gauge.
  2. Isolate the gauge by closing the valve the gauge is installed on.
  3. Remove the gauge from the valve by putting one wrench on the valve (to keep it from spinning) and one wrench on the gauge.
  4. Slowly remove the gauge, taking care to ensure that the isolation valve is holding and pressurized fluid will not be released.
  5. Once removed, verify the gauge that you removed does not have a zero shift.
  6. Install a test gauge in the same location as the gauge you just removed. Verify that the pressure read is the same as the pressure recorded in step 1.
  7. If the gauge being tested does not have a zero shift and read similar to the gauge reading of the test gauge then I consider the gauge accurate enough for troubleshooting.
If the gauge is found to be accurate I will use it for troubleshooting. If not I replace the gauge if I have a new one handy or continue my troubleshooting using my test gauges and put in  arequest to have the bad gauge replaced. If you must leave the bad gauge in place it is good to mark it as being inaccurate so that others know not to trust its readings.

The most common gauge error found is a zero shift. A gauge has a Zero Shift when it does not return to zero when all pressure is removed from it. This is caused by pressure overload, impact, or frequent pressure surges.

Another common gauge error is not attributed to the gauge, but to the piping the gauge is installed on. Often times the nipple, fittings or valve that that gauge is installed on get plugged up. The pressure shown on the gauge is the pressure on the gauge when the piping became plugged

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Zero Shift - Pressure Gauges

For pressure gauges, the most common indicating error that develops over time is a zero shift.  Zero shift can be due to a variety of causes.  Some merely cause a constant deviation which can be eliminated by resetting the pointer to  zero and then comparing the reading  with that of the reference gauge at full scale.  If the difference in readings is, in the user's judgment, within the required tolerance, re-calibration can be  completed by adjusting the pointer of the gauge under test to full scale and double checking that the pointer comes to rest within the zero band when the gauge is depressurized.

If there is a significant difference in readings, the span of the gauge under test has to be adjusted.  This is done by changing the leverage of the sector tail.  If the reading of the gauge under test is too high, the link nut assembly on the sector tail has to be moved away from the segment arbor.  If the reading is too low, it must be moved towards the segment arbor.  Note that this should be done in very small steps and repeated until the reading is satisfactory.  Make sure the pointer returns to zero.  Otherwise, re-set the zero and repeat the procedure.  In most cases, the link nut assembly can be moved (levered) without loosening the link screw.  Only rarely does the tension of the link screw have to eased very slightly.  When adjustment at full scale is completed, check the reading at mid-scale.  If it does not coincide with that of the reference gauge, loosen the dial screws slightly and tilt the dial until the pointer is at mid-scale.

Monday, June 27, 2011

How FieldDataPro Works, Part 3

Once your inspection results and plant operating data have been collected and uploaded to the web application FDP Plant it can be put to good use. Being a web based solution, the data is accessible for review from anywhere. Our standard reports are designed by experts in plant operation and optimized to increase the efficiency of any facility.

Below is Part 3 of an overview of how our solution works. It shows two of our standard reports, the Compliance Report and Schedule Report.

Use FDP Report Manager to schedule the "Compliance Report" to be emailed to you periodically. This report is used to review how well each facility is complying with the required safety inspections.

Run periodic “Schedule Report” to identify any inspections that may be getting overlooked.

FDP helps you detect problems early, helping you keep your inspection program on track.

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How FieldDataPro Works, Part 2

We believe that equipment inspections performed by plant operations and maintenance personnel are the cornerstone to any solid maintenance and reliability program.

Below is Part 2 of an overview of how our solution works. Part 1 took us from defining the data points (Points of Interest) to data collection using FDPMobile and a handheld computer.

Use web application FDP Plant to review inspection results for completeness and correctness.

Schedule report to be emailed
automatically to management and maintenance department, detailing all missed inspections or deficiencies that need to be corrected.

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How FieldDataPro Works, Part 1.

It has been our experience that much of the data collected on a clipboard and paper logsheet goes unused, never to be looked at again. By replacing the clipboard with a handheld computer running FDPMobile, we help plant and facility operators put this data to work for them.

Below is Part 1 of an overview of how our solution works. We use the inspection of a fire extinguisher as an example, but FDPMobile can be used to collect any combination of numerical or yes/no data points.

Define and Load Points of Interest

Identify inspection / data collection points (Points of Interest) in facility.

Load information about each Point of Interest into FDP Plant web application.

Arrange adjacent and related Points of Interest into Groups. 

Fire Extinguisher 1

Print out barcode labels using standard laser printer on Avery or similar labels (

Post barcode labels at each data collection location.

Perform safety inspections

At each inspection location, scan barcode using handheld computer.


Upon scanning barcode, user will be prompted to enter inspection results for that location.

Inspection results are saved on handheld computer.

Results are uploaded to web application the next time handheld has connection to internet, via wireless network, cellular, or by being docked to desktop computer with internet connection.

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

What is FieldData Pro?

FieldData Pro (FDP) is a data management system optimized to manage facilities operating data.

A typical facility uses a number of computerized systems to manage their operations:
  • CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management System) to manage assets and maintenance resources
  • SCADA or BAS Systems to monitor and control building and process systems
  • Accounting systems to issue purchase orders, track expenses and manage inventory
  • Timekeeping software to manage employee labor costs
  • EHS software to manage compliance with environmental, health and safety regulations
Many facilities that have spent thousands, if not millions, of dollars on these systems still rely on clipboards and pencils for the collection of critical data . They then use Excel spreadsheets to manage this data.

What kind of data are we talking about? Look around your facility and see what kind of data is being written on a log sheet attached to a clipboard. Many times it includes:
  • Emergency generator test information
  • HVAC water treatment test data
  • Hazardous Waste Tank Inspections (RCRA)
  • Fume Hood Exhaust Readings
FDP was created to eliminate the work associated with managing this data. By using our mobile application FDPMobile on durable handheld computers (the barcode scanner type devices the Pepsi guy uses to track the inventory he delivers to the convenience store), data is captured efficiently. When the device connects to the Internet this data automatically uploads to our web application, FDP Plant, where it can be reviewed, analyzed and stored securely.

Managing this data no longer involves flipping through grease stain log sheets and keying large amounts of data into spreadsheets. The data is touched once when entered into FDPMobile and is now available for use in a variety of ways by colleagues around the world.

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