Audiometry is the measurement of individuals’ hearing sensitivity using finely-regulated sound inputs. It is a crucial component of a hearing loss prevention program (HLPP) with an emphasis on the range of frequencies prevalent in speech communication. To be valid, audiometric testing must be conducted under controlled conditions and the results interpreted by a knowledgeable technician or audiologist.
This installment of the “Occupational Soundscapes” series provides an introduction to audiometry, requirements for equipment, facilities, and personnel involved in audiometric testing, and the presentation and interpretation of test results. It targets, primarily, those enrolled in – as opposed to responsible for – an HLPP. Its purpose is to develop a basic understanding of a critical component of hearing conservation efforts to, in turn, engender confidence in the administration of procedures that may be foreign to many who undergo them.
Occupational soundscapes, as outlined in Part 1, are comprised of many sounds. Each has a unique source and set of defining characteristics. For some purposes, treating all sounds in combination may be appropriate. For others, the ability to isolate sounds is integral to the purpose of measuring sound levels.
Of particular importance to a hearing loss prevention program (HLPP) is the ability to add, subtract, and average contributions to the sound pressure level (LP, SPL) in a workplace. The ratios and logarithms used to calculate SPLs, presented in Part 3, complicate the arithmetic, but only moderately. This installment of the “Occupational Soundscapes” series introduces the mathematics of sound, enabling readers to evaluate multiple sound sources present in workers’ environs.
In all likelihood, readers of this series have encountered the decibel scale many times. It may have been used in the specifications of new machinery or personal electronic devices. Some may be able to intuit the practical application of these values, but it is likely that many lack knowledge of the true meaning and implications of the decibel scale.
This installment of the “Occupational Soundscapes” series introduces the decibel (dB) and its relevance to occupational noise assessment and hearing conservation. Those with no exposure to the scale and those that have a functional understanding, but lack foundational knowledge, benefit from understanding its mathematical basis. The characteristics of sound to which it is most-often applied is also presented to continue developing the knowledge required to effectively support a hearing loss prevention program (HLPP).
A rudimentary understanding of the physics of sound and the basic functions of the human ear is necessary to appreciate the significance of test results, exposure limits, and other elements of a hearing loss prevention program (HLPP). Without this background, data gathered in support of hearing conservation have little meaning and effective protections cannot be developed and implemented.
This installment of the “Occupational Soundscapes” series provides readers an introduction to the generation and propagation of sound and the structure and function of the human ear; it is not an exhaustive treatise on either subject. Rather, it aims to provide a foundation of knowledge – a refresher, for many – on which future installments of the series build, without burdening readers with extraneous or potentially confusing detail.
Exposure to excessive noise in the workplace can have profound effects, both immediate and long-term. Some consequences are obvious, while others may surprise those that have not studied the topic.
Some industries, such as mining and construction, are subject to regulations published specifically for them. This series presents information, including regulatory controls, that is broadly applicable to manufacturing and service industries.
Safeguarding the health and well-being of employees is among the critical functions of management. In hot workplaces, monitoring environmental conditions and providing adequate protection comprise a significant share of these responsibilities. The details of these efforts are often documented and formalized in a heat illness prevention program.
An effective heat illness prevention program consists of several components, including the measure(s) used for environmental assessment, exposure limits or threshold values, policies defining the response to a limit or threshold being reached, content and schedule of required training for workers and managers, and the processes used to collect and review data and modify the program. Other information may be added, particularly as the program matures. Though it is nominally a prevention program, response procedures, such as the administration of first aid, should also be included; the program should not be assumed to be infallible.
In this installment of the “Thermal Work Environments” series, the components of heat stress hygiene and various control mechanisms are introduced. Combined with the types of information mentioned above, an outline of a heat illness prevention program emerges. This outline can be referenced or customized to create a program meeting the needs of a specific organization or work site.
Since the early 20th century, numerous methods, instruments, and models have been developed to assess hot environments in absolute and relative terms. Many people are most familiar with the “feels like” temperature cited in local weather reports, though its method of determination can also vary. Index calculations vary in complexity and the number of included variables.
Despite the ever-improving accuracy and precision of instrumentation, heat indices remain models, or approximations, of the effects of hot environments on comfort and performance. The models may also be applicable only in a narrow range of conditions. When indices are routinely cited by confident “experts,” without qualifying information, those in the audience may attribute greater value to them than is warranted.
Incorporating the range of possible environmental conditions and human variability requires an extremely complex model, rendering its use in highly-dynamic workplaces infeasible. Though imperfect, there are models and methods that can be practically implemented for the protection of workers in hot environments.
When the human body’s thermoregulatory functions are unable to maintain heat balance in a hot environment, any of several maladies may result. Collectively known as “heat illness,” these maladies vary widely in severity. Therefore, a generic diagnosis of heat illness may provide insufficient information to assess future risks to individuals and populations or to develop effective management plans.
This installment of the “Thermal Work Environments” series describes the range of heat illnesses that workers may experience. This information can be used to identify risk factors and develop preventive measures. It also facilitates effective monitoring of conditions, recognition of symptoms, and proper treatment of heat-effected employees.
The human body reacts to exposure to – and generation of – heat by activating various system responses. The nervous, cardiovascular, respiratory, and exocrine systems are key players in the physiological behavior of workers subject to heat stress. Effective thermoregulation requires that these systems operate in highly-interconnected ways.
This installment of the “Thermal Work Environments” series provides an overview of the human body’s thermoregulatory functions that are activated by heat stress and introduces the heat balance equation. Each component of the heat balance equation is described in terms of physiological and environmental factors that impact thermoregulation.
In the minds of many readers, the term “thermal environment” may induce images of a desert, the Arctic, or other thoughts of extreme conditions. While extreme conditions require intense planning and preparation, they merely bookend the range of work conditions that require consideration. That is to say that the environmental conditions of all workplaces should be thoroughly assessed and the impacts on the people within them properly addressed.
The ensuing discussion is generalized to be applicable to a wide range of activities. The information presented in this series is intended to be universally applicable in manufacturing and service industries. Additional guidance may be available from other sources; readers should consult industry- or activity-specific organizations for detailed information on best practices and regulations that are beyond the scope of this series.
A toxic culture can precipitate a wide range of deleterious effects on an organization and individual members. The toxicity of an organization becomes obvious when overt behaviors demonstrate blatant disregard for social and professional norms. These organizations often become fodder for nightly “news” broadcasts as they are subject to boycotts, civil litigation, and criminal prosecution.
An organization’s toxicity can also manifest much less explicitly. Subtle behaviors and surreptitious actions are more difficult to detect or to evince intent. It is this uncertainty that allows toxic cultures to persist, to refine and more-effectively disguise maladaptive behaviors.
To combat organizational toxicity, leaders must appreciate the importance of a healthy culture, recognize the ingredients of toxic culture, and understand how to implement effective countermeasures.
In common language, “materiality” could be replaced with “importance” or “relevance.” In a business setting, however, the word has greater significance; no adequate substitute is available. In this context, materiality is not a binary characteristic, or even a one-dimensional spectrum; instead it lies in a two-dimensional array.
Materiality has been defined in a multitude of ways by numerous organizations. Though these organizations have developed their definitions independently, to serve their own purposes, there is a great deal of overlap in both. Perhaps the simplest and, therefore, most broadly-applicable description of materiality was provided by the GHG Protocol:
“Information is considered to be material if, by its inclusion or exclusion, it can be seen to influence any decisions or actions taken by users of it.”
Recognizing the proliferation and potential risk of divergent definitions, several organizations that develop corporate reporting standards and assessments published a consensus definition in 2016:
“Material information is any information which is reasonably capable of making a difference to the conclusions reasonable stakeholders may draw when reviewing the related information.” (IIRC, GRI, SASB, CDP, CDSB, FASB, IASB/IFRS, ISO)
The consensus definition is still somewhat cryptic, only alluding to the reason for its existence – corporate financial and ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) reporting. As much can be surmised from the list of signatory organizations as from the definition itself.
The work balance chart is a critical component of a line balancing effort. It is both the graphical representation of the allocation of task time among operators, equipment, and transfers in a manufacturing or service process and a tool used to achieve an equal distribution.
Like other tools discussed in “The Third Degree,” a work balance chart may be referenced by other names in the myriad resources available. It is often called an operator balance chart, a valid moniker if only manual tasks are considered. It is also known as a Yamazumi Board. “Yamazumi” is Japanese for “stack up;” this term immediately makes sense when an example chart is seen, but requires an explanation to every non-Japanese speaker one encounters. Throughout the following presentation, “work balance chart,” or “WBC,” is used to refer to this tool and visual aid. This term is the most intuitive and characterizes the tool’s versatility in analyzing various forms of “work.”
A precedence diagram is a building block for more advanced techniques in operations and project management. Precedence diagrams are used as inputs to PERT and Gantt charts, line balancing, and Critical Path Method (topics of future installments of “The Third Degree.”)
Many resources discuss precedence diagramming as a component of the techniques mentioned above. However, the fact that it can be used for each of these purposes, and others, warrants a separate treatment of the topic. Separate treatment is also intended to encourage reuse, increasing the value of each diagram created.
A cause & effect diagram is best conceptualized as a specialized application and extension of an affinity diagram. Both types of diagram can be used for proactive (e.g. development planning) or reactive (e.g. problem-solving) purposes. Both use brainstorming techniques to collect information that is sorted into related groups. Where the two diverge is in the nature of relationships represented.
An affinity diagram may present several types of relationships among pieces of information collected. A cause & effect diagram, in contrast, is dedicated to a single relationship and its “direction,” namely, what is cause and what is effect.
In many organizations, complaints can be heard that there are too many programs and initiatives targeting too many objectives. These complaints may come from staff or management; many of them may even be valid. The response to this situation, however, is often misguided and potentially dangerous.
To streamline efforts and improve performance – ostensibly, at least – managers and executives may discontinue or merge programs. Done carelessly, consolidation can be de facto termination. A particularly egregious example of this practice is to combine safety and 5S.
An affinity diagram may stretch the definition of “map,” but perhaps not as much as it first appears. Affinity diagrams map regions of thought, or attention, within a world of unorganized data and information.
Mapping regions of thought in an affinity diagram can aid various types of projects, including product or service development, process development or troubleshooting, logistics, marketing, and safety, health, and environmental sustainability initiatives. In short, nearly any problem or opportunity an organization faces can benefit from the use of this simple tool.
Numerous resources providing descriptions of affinity diagrams are available. It is the aim of “The Third Degree” to provide a more helpful resource than these often bland or confusing articles by adding nuance, insight, and tips for effective use of the tools discussed in these pages. In this tradition, the discussion of affinity diagrams that follows presents alternative approaches with the aim of maximizing the tool’s utility to individuals and organizations.
Most manufactured goods are produced and distributed to the marketplace where consumers are then sought. Services, in contrast, are not “produced” until there is a “consumer.” Simultaneous production and consumption is a hallmark of service; no inventory can be accumulated to compensate for fluctuating demand.
Instead, demand must be managed via predictable performance and efficiency. A service blueprint documents how a service is delivered, delineating customer actions and corresponding provider activity. Its pictorial format facilitates searches for improvements in current service delivery and identification of potential complementary offerings. A service blueprint can also be created proactively to optimize a delivery system before a service is made available to customers.
By this time, many New Year’s resolutions have already been abandoned. Those that have not may still be ineffective in changing behavior or achieving desired outcomes. Setting goals, as a strategy, is far superior to making resolutions when it comes to reaching a desired future state.
Goal-setting can be personal in nature, as resolutions typically are, or organizationally-focused. In an organizational context, goals can be defined for individuals, groups or the organization as a whole.
Research suggests that goal-setting can be very beneficial to individuals and groups alike, but it is not without risk. This installment of “The Third Degree” shows how to tip the scales toward favorable individual or group outcomes by setting goals that are SMART, PURE, and CLEAR.
As our calendar expires once again, many of us will be inspired to reflect on our journeys and to look forward to new adventures. “The Third Degree” is not immune to this drive; this installment serves that very purpose. It will not be mere nostalgia, however.
It is in the spirit of continuous improvement that previous installments will be revisited, referencing material published since their release. Resources that were simply missed in the initial telling will also be shared. This is a mostly chronological journey to simplify navigating the archive to review the original articles.
Claims about the impact of sustainability initiatives – or the lack thereof – on a company’s financial performance are prevalent in media. Claims cover the spectrum from crippling, through negligible, to transformative. Articles making these claims target audiences ranging from corporate executives to non-industry activists, politicians, and regulators. Likewise, the articles cite vastly differing sources to support claims.
These articles are often rife with unsupported claims and inconsistencies, are poorly sourced, poorly written, and dripping with bias. The most egregious are often rewarded with “likes,” “shares,” and additional “reporting” by equally biased purveyors of “the word.” These viewpoint warriors create a fog of war that makes navigating the mine-laden battlefield of stakeholder interests incredibly treacherous.
The fog of war is penetrated by stepping outside the chaos to collect and analyze relevant information. To do this in the sustainability vs. profitability context, a group from NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business have developed the Return on Sustainability Investment (ROSI) framework. ROSI ends reliance on the incessant cascades of conflicting claims, providing a structure for investigating the impacts of sustainability initiatives on an organization’s financial performance.
Unintended consequences come in many forms and have many causes. “Revenge effects” are a special category of unintended consequences, created by the introduction of a technology, policy, or both that produces outcomes in contradiction to the desired result. Revenge effects may exacerbate the original problem or create a new situation that is equally undesirable if not more objectionable.
Discussions of revenge effects often focus on technology – the most tangible cause of a predicament. However, “[t]echnology alone usually doesn’t produce a revenge effect.” It is typically the combination of technology, policy, (laws, regulations, etc.), and behavior that endows a decision with the power to frustrate its own intent.
This installment of “The Third Degree” explores five types of revenge effects, differentiates between revenge and other effects, and discusses minimizing unanticipated unfavorable outcomes.
The Law of Unintended Consequences can be stated in many ways. The formulation forming the basis of this discussion is as follows:
“The Law of Unintended Consequences states that every decision or action produces outcomes that were not motivations for, or objectives of, the decision or action.”
Like many definitions, this statement of “the law” may seem obscure to some and obvious to others. This condition is often evidence of significant nuance. In the present case, much of the nuance has developed as a result of the morphing use of terms and the contexts in which these terms are most commonly used.
The transformation of terminology, examples of unintended consequences, how to minimize negative effects, and more are explored in this installment of “The Third Degree.”
An organization’s safety-related activities are critical to its performance and reputation. The profile of these activities rises with public awareness or concern. Nuclear power generation, air travel, and freight transportation (e.g. railroads) are commonly-cited examples of high-profile industries whose safety practices are routinely subject to public scrutiny.
When addressing “the public,” representatives of any organization are likely to speak in very different terms than those presented to them by technical “experts.” After all, references to failure modes, uncertainties, mitigation strategies, and other safety-related terms are likely to confuse a lay audience and may have an effect opposite that desired. Instead of assuaging concerns with obvious expertise, speaking above the heads of concerned citizens may prompt additional demands for information, prolonging the organization’s time in an unwanted spotlight.
In the example cited above, intentional obfuscation may be used to change the beliefs of an external audience about the safety of an organization’s operations. This scenario is familiar to most; myriad examples are provided by daily “news” broadcasts. In contrast, new information may be shared internally, with the goal of increasing knowledge of safety, yet fail to alter beliefs about the organization’s safety-related performance. This phenomenon, much less familiar to those outside “the safety profession,” has been dubbed “probative blindness.” This installment of “The Third Degree” serves as an introduction to probative blindness, how to recognize it, and how to combat it.
Another way to Be A Zero – in a good, productive way – is to operate on a zero-based schedule. An organization’s time is the aggregate of individuals’ time and is often spent carelessly. When a member of an organization spends time on any endeavor, the organization’s time is being spent. When groups are formed, the expenditure of time multiplies. Time is the one resource that cannot be increased by persuasive salespeople, creative marketing, strategic partnerships, or other strategy; it must be managed.
“Everyone” in business knows that “time is money;” it only makes sense that time should be budgeted as carefully as financial resources. Like ZBB (Zero-Based Budgeting – Part 1), Zero-Based Scheduling (ZBS) can be approached in two ways; one ends at zero, the other begins there.
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