Sleep Deprivation Can Affect Safety

Posted: Aug 22, 2014

By Renee Witherspoon, MS, CSP, CIH, CHMM, South Plains Chapter President

Many of us know that we need to get an adequate amount of sleep every night but how many of us actually do? Work, school, or family responsibilities can cause stress throughout our day so that we end up missing sleep. And many would say that sleep is just “down time” when the body rests, but in reality, it is so much more than that and can have a huge impact on safety and our day-to-day lives.

Consequences of Sleep Deprivation

Shift workers or people having to work a “graveyard shift” are often tired and sleepy because of their work schedule. If workers are overly tired then concentration on their work can be difficult. There is also the possibility of decreased reaction times, increased moodiness, and impaired judgment. All which can lead to the possibilities of accidents.

Sleep deprivation and fatigue has been shown to have serious consequences and be the root cause of some of the largest disasters in recent history including the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island in 1979, the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl in 1986 and recently in 2013, a commuter train derailed killing four people because the train engineer had fallen asleep at the controls when the train was going 82 mph into a 30 mph curve. Reports stated that he had navigated the route many times but was on the early shift only a few weeks.

Sleep deprivation can also affect our daily lives. Besides the increased risk of occupational injury, studies have shown that sleep deprivation and fatigue can have dramatic effects on personal health including:

  • Decreased Performance and Alertness: Reducing nighttime sleep by as little as one and a half hours for just one night could result in a reduction of daytime alertness by as much as 32%.
  • Memory and Cognitive Impairment: Decreased alertness and excessive daytime sleepiness impair memory and your ability to think and process information.
  • Stress Relationships: Disruption of a bed partner’s sleep due to a sleep disorder may cause significant problems for the relationship (for example, separate bedrooms, conflicts, moodiness, etc.).
  • Poor Quality of Life: As an example, being unable to participate in certain activities that require sustained attention, like going to the movies, attending your child’s school event, or watching a favorite TV show.
  • Automobile Injury: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that each year drowsy driving is responsible for at least 100,000 automobile crashes, 71,000 injuries, and 1,550 fatalities.

There is no questioning the importance of getting enough sleep. But the lack of awareness of sleep deprivation is an important safety topic that is seldom discussed in meetings but needs to be. As mentioned, sleep deprivation can increase the danger in the workplace but many workers suffering from it are not even aware of the risks. They may think they are functioning well enough but they are susceptible to falling into a potentially deadly form of sleep, called “microsleep.”

Microsleep is brief, unintended episodes of loss of attention associated with events such as blank stare, head snapping, and prolonged eye closure which may occur when a person is fatigued but trying to stay awake to perform a monotonous task like driving a vehicle or watching a computer screen. If you’ve ever driven somewhere and not remembered part of the trip, you may have experienced microsleep. One wrong move or lack of attention or alertness can cause a serious accident. So it is important that we in the safety community recognize the warning signs of sleep deprivation so that we can prevent accidents.

Warning Signs of Sleep Deprivation

The following are the warning signs to watch for if you are not getting enough sleep:

  • You’re more impulsive.
  • You’re forgetful.
  • You’re hungrier.
  • You’re clumsier.
  • You’re arguing more with your significant other.

If you find that you are sleep deprived—­you know what to do.

Recommendations For Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

Sleep requirements vary across the age groups but according to the National Sleep Foundation, adults require 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Senior adults tend to sleep more lightly and may wake up more often during the night because they may have more medical problems, which affect quality sleep and can lead to daytime napping.

Like eating well and being physically fit, getting a good night’s sleep is important to your well-being. Here are some tips:

  • Avoid caffeine and nicotine. The stimulating effects of caffeine in coffee, colas, teas, and chocolate can take as long as 8 hours to wear off fully. Nicotine is also a stimulant.
  • Stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day—even on the weekends.
  • Exercise is great but not too late in the day. Avoid exercising closer than 5 or 6 hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid alcoholic drinks before bed. A “nightcap” might help you get to sleep, but alcohol keeps you in the lighter stages of sleep. You also tend to wake up in the middle of the night when the sedating effects have worn off.
  • Avoid large meals and beverages late at night. A large meal can cause indigestion that may interfere with sleep. Drinking too many fluids at night can cause you to awaken frequently to run to the bathroom.
  • Avoid medicines that delay or disrupt your sleep, if possible. Some commonly prescribed heart, blood pressure, or asthma medications, as well as some over-the-counter and herbal remedies for coughs, colds, or allergies, can disrupt sleep patterns.


Sleep will always be important for overall health and wellness and studies have shown that having a good night’s sleep improves memory, alertness, decreases stress, and the risk of accidents on the job. Lack of sleep can even affect even our interpretation of events. This will affect our ability to make sound judgments because we may not assess potentially dangerous situations accurately and act on them correctly.

These positive health benefits equate to employees being happier, safer, and more productive. The challenge is to get employees to realize the importance of getting enough sleep and how getting an adequate amount of sleep can have a positive impact not only in their lives but in the lives of those around them.

Happy sleeping.



  • Breus, Michael.  Sleep Habits:  More Important Than You Think:  Chronic Sleep Deprivation May Harm Health, WebMD.  Accessed 8/7/14.
  • Harris, Phil.  “Warning Signs that you’re Not Getting Enough Sleep”, K104.7FM.  Accessed 7/9/14.
  • How Much Sleep Do We Really Need? National Sleep Foundation. Accessed 7/9/14.
  • Why is Sleep Important? National Heart, Lunch and Blood Institute, US Dept. Of Health & Human Services. Accessed 7/9/14.
  • Your Guide to Healthy Sleep.  NHLBI Health Information Center.  Accessed 7/9/14.

Conducting Your Annual Lockout/Tagout Inspections

Posted: Aug 07, 2014

By Renee Witherspoon, CSP, CIH, CHMM, South Plains Chapter President

Example of the lockout device for an ordinary electrical switch.

Are you surprised to learn that there is an annual lockout/tagout (LOTO) inspection requirement?  As part of OSHA’s Control of Hazardous Energy standard (29 CFR 1910.147) or lockout/tagout employers are required to “conduct a periodic inspection of the energy control procedure at least annually to ensure that the procedure and the requirements of this standard are being followed.”

Many are familiar with LOTO standard and have lockout/tagout procedures at their facility, but may not be as familiar with the annual inspection and certification requirements.

Overview of the Standard

OSHA’s LOTO standard applies to all types of energy both potential and kinetic including electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, etc.  An employer is required to establish procedures and train their personnel to de-energize equipment and apply a lockout/tagout device before performing maintenance or servicing operations.  This prevents unexpected energization, start-up, or release of these stored energy hazards that could cause a disabling injury or even death.

This standard has two key definitions, an “authorized” employee and an “affected” employee.

An “authorized” employee may do any or all of the following tasks:

  • Perform energy source isolation;
  • Implement lockout and/or tagout on machines or equipment;
  • Dissipate potential (stored) energy;
  • Verify energy isolation;
  • Implement actions to release LOTO; or
  • Test or position machines or equipment.

An “affected” employee is a person whose job requires him or her to:

  • Operate or use a machine or equipment on which servicing or maintenance is being performed under lockout/tagout, or
  • Work in an area in which servicing or maintenance is being performed.

Servicing and maintenance of equipment begins only after an authorized employee has placed his or her own lock and/or tag on the energy isolation device(s).  The equipment then can only re-energized and restarted after that employee removes their lock and/or tag.

Although LOTO appears to be a very broad-based standard it is not required for certain operations including:

  • Construction, agriculture or maritime employment;
  • Oil and gas well drilling and servicing;
  • Installations under the exclusive control of electric utilities for power generation transmission and distribution;
  • Exposure to electrical hazards from work on, near or with conductors or equipment in electric use installations (covered by Subpart S of the OSHA standard), and;
  • Work performed with electronic equipment that is connected to its energy source by a cord and plug.

Conducting the Periodic Inspection

To comply with the periodic inspection portion of the standard an authorized employee must observe another authorized employee implement each LOTO procedure once per year.  Why is this not done at some facilities?  Many times supervisors are either unaware of the requirements of the standard or, they may have simply misinterpreted what it says.

OSHA states in §1910.147(c)(6)(i) that “the employer shall conduct an inspection of the energy control procedure.” This singular use of the word “procedure” is easily misinterpreted as requiring review of only one LOTO procedure on a single piece of equipment.

According to the OSHA Compliance Directive (CPL 02-00-147), which provides enforcement policy and inspection procedures, an authorized person (or persons) shall conduct a periodic inspection of one (or more) authorized person(s) implementing each of the employer’s machine-specific LOTO procedures (or group of like procedures).

In this directive OSHA explains that each energy control procedure required by §1910.147(c)(4) must be separately inspected annually to ensure that the procedure is adequate and that is it properly implemented by the authorized employee(s).  Each of the LOTO annual inspections must include a demonstration of the procedures and must be performed while the authorized employee(s) performs the servicing and/or maintenance activity on the designated machine or equipment.  If deficiencies are identified, retraining must also be completed.

The requirement for “separate inspections annually” may seem like a daunting task especially if there are multiple pumps or machinery.  Fortunately, OSHA does allow a facility to group machine-specific LOTO procedures into one procedure for purposes of compliance, so long as the machines or equipment have the same or similar types of control measures.  OSHA also allows for representative sampling when performing an inspection.  As an example, if there were 20 employees authorized to perform a LOTO, OSHA would require an inspection or review of a representative number of them to comply with the standard instead of all 20 employees.

Grouping is a method to decrease the number of required annual inspections.  To take advantage of this, each LOTO procedure must all be listed or identified in the scope of the energy control procedure, and should include:

Grouping is a method to decrease the number of required annual inspections.  To take advantage of this, each LOTO procedure must all be listed or identified in the scope of the energy control procedure, and should include:

  • Procedural steps for shutting down, isolating, blocking, securing, and dissipating stored energy in machines or equipment;
  • Procedural steps for the placement, removal, and transfer of the lockout or tagout devices and the responsibility for them; and,
  • Requirements for testing a machine or equipment to determine and verify the effectiveness of LOTO devices and other control measures.

Once the inspection is completed the standard requires that a review of the procedures be completed “between the inspector and each authorized and affected employee” and then “certified”.  The employer, according to OSHA, is responsible for certifying that the periodic inspection(s) have been performed.

A certification must include at least the following information:

  • Identity of the machine or equipment on which the energy control procedure was being utilized;
  • The date of the inspection;
  • The employees included in the inspection; and,
  • Person performing the inspection.


OSHA’s LOTO standard has many components that we are familiar with.  The requirement for periodic inspection is sometimes overlooked and at times easily misinterpreted because of the singular language used in this standard.  For insight on the interpretation of this regulation a review of the Compliance Directive is needed.  In this directive the requirement for periodic inspections becomes more clear.  

An authorized person(s) will conduct a periodic inspection of other authorized person(s) implementing each one of the organizations LOTO procedures or grouped procedures. 

Once the inspection is completed, that procedure must be reviewed with both authorized and affected employees and then certified by the employer.  If any deficiencies are identified, retraining must also be completed.

If you are concerned about compliance with this regulation, don’t reinvent the wheel.  There are free LOTO certification forms available on the internet as well as generic lockout procedures that can be used as a template for developing your facilities site-specific LOTO program.

June is National Safety Month, so celebrate by preventing injuries from unexpected machine start-ups.  Review and update your LOTO program!


  • Chambers, Curtis.  “OSHA’s Annual LOTO Procedure Inspection Requirements.” Accessed:  5/12/14
  • OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910.147 “The Control of Hazardous Energy (lockout/tagout)”
  • OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910.147 “The Control of Hazardous Energy (lockout/tagout)” Appendix A – Typical minimal lockout procedures
  • OSHA Instruction CPL 02-00-147, Effective Date:  2/11/08, Subject:  The Control of Hazardous Energy – Enforcement Policy and Inspection Procedures


Static Electricity and Flammable Liquid Safety

Posted: Apr 14, 2014

By Renee Witherspoon, MS, CSP, CIH, CHMM, South Plains Chapter President

Bonding to a plastic bucket?

We are familiar with static electricity when we walk across a floor and then touch a door knob and watch as a spark jumps from our hand to the knob, or when we take clothes out of the dryer and they are stuck together.  We can deal with a little static cling, but that static spark in the presence of flammable vapors, gases or dusts can produce a fire or explosion.

Bonding Wire and the Plastic Pail

While on a recent tour of a manufacturing facility, I noticed a storage area for flammable and combustible liquids.  Although the general housekeeping was excellent, there was a 55-gallon steel drum of Stoddard solvent (flash point 102-110°F) with a bonding wire attached to the rim of a 5-gallon plastic pail (see photo).  Since non-conductive liquids such as Stoddard Solvent produce static as they flow through pipes or hoses, static electricity could build-up. If the plastic pail is used for transferring flammable or combustible liquids, there could be the potential of a fire.  Because the grounding wire was attached to a non-conductive plastic pail, I realized that grounding and bonding as it pertains to flammable liquid safety would be a great safety training topic for these employees.

Bonding and Grounding for Flammable Liquids

According to the definition, a bonding system connects various pieces of conductive equipment together to keep them at the same potential energy.  Bonding assures electrical continuity and its capacity to conduct safely any current likely to be imposed (NEC 250).  The best method to bond containers is to securely attach a special metal bonding strap or wire to both containers making sure that there is a metal to metal contact (see diagram).

Grounding is a special form of bonding in which conductive equipment is connected to an earthing electrode or to the building grounding system in order to limit voltage imposed by lighting, line surges or unintentional contact with high-voltage lines (NEC 250).  A resistance of 1 megaohm or less is generally considered adequate.  Examples of good grounds include cold water pipes that are upstream from the meter and driven grounding rods similar to those used to ground electrical systems. Both grounding and bonding connections must be bare metal to bare metal, paint and rust must be removed to maintain a good connection.

Only non-conductive liquids will accumulate a charge by flow. Examples of non-conductive liquids include solvents and fuels produced from petroleum including xylene, toluene, gasoline and mineral spirits.  These liquids tend to hold on to their charge when they flow through hoses because they cannot conduct electricity well enough to discharge when in contact with a conducing material, like a metal pipe or container that is grounded.

Diagram: Bonding and Grounding

Use a Safety Can

When dispensing flammable or combustible liquids care must always be taken to dissipate static electricity and minimize the potential for fire.  Although a 5-gallon pail may be convenient and cheap, the open surface of the liquid could collect enough flammable vapors to be within the flammable range of the chemical.  A static spark has enough energy that a fire or explosion could result.  Using a safety can is a great way to minimize the potential for a fire.

A safety can is defined as: “an approved container, of not more than 5 gallons capacity, having a spring-closing lid and spout cover and so designed that it will safely relieve internal pressure when subjected to fire exposure.” (OSHA 29 CFR 1910.106(a)(29))

Safety cans comes in two types: Type I is the basic safety can that has one opening for pouring and filling; the Type II safety can has separate openings for filling and dispensing.  Type II safety cans will typically have a nozzle extension that to allow filling the container from the bottom which is recommended to minimize splashing.

GHS Updates Definition of Flammable Liquid

If you are familiar the flammable and combustible liquid classes as Class I, Class II and Class IIIA and IIIB, it is time to forget about that, and get to know the new classification system for the Globally Harmonized System (GHS).  The OSHA standard on Flammable and Combustible Liquids 29 CFR 1910.106 has been updated to reflect recent GHS updates.  Flammable and combustible liquids are still divided into different groups depending on their flash point and boiling point, but now any liquid having a flashpoint at or below 199.4 °F (93 °C) is considered a flammable liquid, and divided into four GHS categories, see Table 1.  According to this new classification system, Category 1, 2, or 3 flammable liquids with flashpoints below 100 °F (37.8 °C), cannot be dispensed into containers unless the nozzle and container are electrically interconnected.

Flammable Liquid Storage and Preparedness

When flammable and combustible liquids are stored, one of the approved methods of storage is inside a flammable liquid storage cabinet.  Use of a cabinet will protect the flammable liquid against a flash fire and contain any spilled material that could further spread a fire.  These cabinets are also designed to protect the internal contents from a fire outside the cabinet.  Although the maximum quantity of flammable liquids that can be stored inside a single cabinet is no more than 60 gallons of a Category 1 flammable liquid (Class 1A flammable liquid) (NFPA 30), a good rule of thumb is to not store more than what you can use within a reasonable timeframe.  Before storing any flammable or combustible liquids it is important to verify that the chemicals being storage are compatible.

Since a fire is a primary concern when handling flammable and combustible liquids, the best advice is to be prepared.  Personnel need to be trained to handle emergencies and Class B fire extinguishers need to be readily available to keep a small fire from becoming a big fire.


Accumulation of the static charge can be controlled, but you have to know what to look for.  Make sure that all of your equipment is sufficiently conductive and properly grounded to minimize the possibility of fire.  Although a 5-gallon plastic pail may be convenient for transferring flammable liquids, think “safety first”, use a safety can and be prepared to respond to an emergency situation.

There are many State and local codes concerning bonding and grounding to find out more about the requirements in your particular area, contact your local fire marshal.


  • Flammable and Combustible Liquids, 29 CFR 1910.106.
  • How Do I Work Safely with Flammable and Combustible Liquids (Static Electricity), Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.
  • Grounding and Bonding, National Electrical Code (NEC) Article 250, National Fire Protection Association, 2014