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.