The writing of this paper follows on the heels of a meeting between the author and the Chief Deputy Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The purpose of that meeting was to investigate and discuss the circumstances of a fatal Pennsylvania mining accident. The Attorney General's office was desperately trying to determine an answer to the question of why the portable gas monitor, that was carried by the victim and designed to detect the methane gas that was inadvertently ignited into the fatal explosion that took his life, was turned off at the time of the accident.

Industrial Scientific Corporation has designed and manufactured portable gas monitoring instruments for more than twenty-five years. There are countless testimonials to how these instruments have saved lives and improved the level of safety in the workplace. Yet accidents like the one described above still occur and workers are still injured and killed in gas related accidents. This has led to one very clear realization. Manufacturers can design and produce the most reliable and best performing gas monitors possible. They could be maintained and cared for with the highest level of integrity. But if they are not used properly or not used at all, they cannot perform the function for which they were intended – saving lives.

This paper will discuss how tracking behavior patterns surrounding the use of gas monitoring instruments and analyzing exposure data collected from these instruments can be used as leading indicators of potential workplace safety problems.

Behavior and Safety

The term behavior can be defined as an ‘observable action or activity.’"1 Carrying this definition through with regard to safety it can be said that behavior is an observable action or series of actions or activities that result in patterns that affect the safety of an individual or a group of workers.

Individual behaviors are repeatable. If you have done it once, you will likely do it again. Whether it has been done consciously or subconsciously, we have all trained ourselves to perform in certain ways. When unsafe behaviors start to occur with increasing frequency, the likelihood of accidents and injuries occurring become greater.

Safety behaviors can be viewed similarly to the illustrious safety fire triangle. When fuel and oxygen are present in the correct proportions along with a source of ignition, explosion occurs. When unsafe behaviors (sources of ignition) occur in the presence of significant hazards (fuel and oxygen), accidents and injuries do occur.

Now, back to the definition; behaviors are observable and are seen by others. As such, they are recordable. Since they are recordable, behaviors are leading indicators that can be analyzed and subsequently corrected to prevent accidents and injuries.

Gas Monitors and Datalogging

Datalogging is a feature that has been available in portable gas monitoring instruments since the early nineties. However it is a feature that historically has been used very infrequently. Through the first decade of availability, less than 10 percent of the portable gas monitors that were sold were equipped with datalogging functionality.

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