002 - Cover Your Mug - How The Pandemic Pushed PPE Transparency Into The Spotlight


Al (00:00):
Hey everybody. A quick note to start the show. This episode was recorded earlier in the spring in a somewhat different world before the COVID vaccine rollout began in full here in the U S and other countries. That's said we still think this episode is a very relevant one. Not only because the global pandemic is far from over, and it's really vital to learn from this moment to slay the challenges of the next, but because there are also so many great points about worker safety and public health made throughout that are important to consider well beyond the title of this particular episode, we hope you enjoy it.

Cristine (00:35):
When you're talking workplace safety, you have to know who you're dealing with, that the conscientious companies are going to be open. They're going to be transparent. Um, they're going to invest in making sure that their product is a quality one and does what it's supposed to do.

Al (00:54):
Welcome everybody to another scintillating edition of Radio Free Tenacity, the voice of worker safety. I'm your co-host Al Buczkowski joined as always by the real brains of the operation. Our very own work site safety specialist, Allie Thunstrom. Hey Allie.

Allie (01:12):
Hey Al!

Al (01:12):
Allie, quick Q to start the show. Do you honestly remember what life was like before COVID?

Allie (01:18):
No, not a chance thinking about it the other day. And I'm like, I know it's not normal, but I can't even tell you what is missing or what's different.

Al (01:29):
Same, same, like I watch crowd scenes in movies or whatever and all I can see is just people spitting in each other's faces. Just like droplets spewing everywhere, even once we're all vaccinated, man. I don't even know if I'll be able to unsee that.

Allie (01:43):
I know. I think about that all the time. Or you think of blowing out the candles on a birthday cake, like, is that ever going to be a thing again? Or do you want it to be?

Al (01:52):
No it's officially done I think.

Allie (01:52):
Yeah. I mean, hindsight being what it is, it's, it's easy to see now, what other parts of the world primarily Eastern Asia have known for quite some time that masks do something.

Al (02:03):
Who knew? I mean, even looking past COVID, it's not hard to imagine how, you know, continued mask use in crowded public areas and work settings would be a good way to help tame the effects of the flu season, for instance, which by the way, saw abnormally low activity during the pandemic, according to the CDC.

Allie (02:23):
For sure. And I mean, you think even though there is a flu vaccine and has been for years, it can clearly help a lot. You know, for example, I know some people, you know, can't get it because of allergies or auto-immune disorders or maybe because of mutations of this year's vaccine that kind of rendered it ineffective, but you know, there's, there's something there.

Al (02:46):
Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, even with an encouraging COVID vaccine rollout, it's like you feel like face coverings will continue to be a thing in public health and worker safety discussions in the near future, uh, you know, as, as varying degrees of folks are, are vaccinated or like you were talking about the virus mutates in addition to being prepared for hopefully the way distant future whenever the next pandemic rolls around.

Allie (03:12):
Yeah. I mean, I think I can speak for everybody that I don't ever want to live through another one, but you know, being prepared is, is definitely better than, than being unprepared, which it kind of felt like when COVID first started, you know, a year ago. And, and that's one of the many topics that I end up getting into with today's guest Cristine Fargo, who is the vice president of operations and technical services for ISEA or for those of you not familiar with that acronym, the International Safety Equipment Association. And just to kind of give a background on what they do. Um, ISEA is the association for safety equipment and technologies that help people do their jobs safely, including in the midst of a pandemic like we are right now, you know, their stated mission is to be the catalyst that ensures safety products are better conforming, understandable and used. So that's really what their aim is. And I think when, you know, COVID happened and face coverings began being required, that was something that they had to look at and say, well, how are we actually protecting our workers on that frontline and our construction workers? And are they getting the right materials for the job being done.

Al (04:23):
Right on, right on, well, you know, the, the mission of ISEA as, as you lay it out there, um, sounds really admirable, uh, really, uh, when you get down to it. So how does that mission kind of manifest into tangible things we can identify?

Allie (04:42):
I would love to answer that and give you my best explanation, but I think what would probably be better is to let Cristine handle that one for us. So we did actually touch on that and a lot more. Uh, so I think that her answers will probably trump mine 110%.

Al (04:59):
Okay. Well, you know, that sounds good. So let us not waste any more time on ceremony and get right to your chat with Cristine Fargo of the International Safety Equipment Association.

Allie (05:13):
Okay, everybody welcome back to the Ergodyne podcast. Today we are super excited we have Cristine Fargo from ISEA. So Cristine real quickly, let's just start with a little intro for the folks who may not know who you or ISEA are.

Cristine (05:29):
Great. Um, and thank you, Allie and the rest of the Ergodyne team for having me. I have been with ISEA for nearly 25 years, um, as the, in various roles, but most recently as the vice president of operations and technical services, which includes our standards development. ISEA in a nutshell is the trade association for manufacturer to produce safety and PPE products. Um, so everything from head to toe products, as well as facility management, safety products, such as first aid kits, eye washes, um, detection instrumentation, and things like that.

Allie (06:10):
That's really awesome. So I know you've mentioned a lot of, you know, the safety culture and helping guide a lot of standards. So what do you think it is that motivates you to kind of do your job every day?

Speaker 2 (06:17):
So I think what motivates me, I've been in here as long as I have is the impact that the association make on the day-to-day laws, people who are contributing to society, they've deserve to be able to do their job, to be able to come home and to be able to have that confidence that they are doing it in a safe work environment. And so that's consistent with, um, the desire for everybody to just be in a way of life that allows them to, to do, just to do and live and be confident. Um, and, and I appreciate the work that the manufacturers and the, and, and that the industry does on behalf of everybody because there's a great societal benefit workers being protected.

Allie (07:06):
Absolutely. I mean, at the end of the day, they are kind of the framework of society, even though they don't necessarily get the credit for it. So one thing you also mentioned within the job was, uh, standards and how does ISEA or yourself influence safety standards?

Cristine (07:13):
So we are fortunate to have a large think tank, if you will, of, um, bright minded member companies who sit around the table and, and think about what a product should be doing. I mean, it's one thing to put a product out there and say, it does X, Y, Z, if you don't have that validation or that confidence that there's some minimum level of performance that, that product actually can offer some protection or has some minimal baseline of criteria, um, that it's appropriate for the work environment and the hazard. So it, it really is everything that we've been able to do is with that mindset. I think one of the greatest poster children, if you will, has been the success of the ISEA 107 standard on high visibility safety products. So that's been around for 20 years, 21 years this year. Um, and prior to that, there was nothing here in the US. And in that iteration, in those five iterations, since then, it is a nationally recognized standard codified into regulation. Um, it is the basis for some other regional standards and international standards. Um, and so, you know, we're always looking for what that next influential, um, bombshell product can be. I mean, that standard really created a marketplace for high visibility work garments, and not just the best that you see on a paddler, a flagger, but across the board top to bottom, anybody who needs to be seen, located, traffic patterns have changed so much work environments have changed somewhat. You still need to know where your workers are and how to avoid, um, you know, struck by hazards, making their presence known. So I'm excited to see what the next one was. We're always working on something.

Allie (09:19):
Yeah, that's really awesome. I love that you brought up hi vis because it is a standard. And as, as I visit job sites and talk to people and see, you know, what's out there, I think there is just such a unknown to that in a lot of ways of how important abiding by that standard is. And I think some of the really cool things we've done it with some photoshoots. Um, and then just things that you've done on the standard committee is showcasing. What that difference in visibility is with a compliant fabric and compliant reflective versus non, and the amount in which you actually see in comparison is really jaw dropping. And at the end of the day, exactly, like you said, you don't want to give people a false sense of security. Make them feel like they're doing the right thing and feel like they're safe and that the product that they're wearing that's intended to keep them safe is actually doing that. So, you know, kind of talking about that, the newest issue that's come to mind of course, is COVID. And face coverings on the job became so large scale so quickly, and it was almost required immediately, uh, leading to kind of a scramble. So could you kind of take us through what that was like on the ISEA side? And I know there is a standard upcoming, but can you kind of walk us through what that looked like and where we're at today?

Cristine (10:37):
Sure. Um, so obviously, as you mentioned, you know, trying to understand from the public health perspective so not just the worker environment, which is where most of our companies focus, but that, that greater community in that public health aspect, where you can go to the grocery store without seeing fellow shoppers wearing it or take, you know, walk your dog or something like that. There's, um, a cottage industry on Etsy popped up very quickly with people who had templates that were publicly available for, uh, a three ply, a three, three, a stratified, um, sort of masks with ties. Um, but all fabrics are not created equal. And especially if you're talking about worker protection and there's a lot of regulatory background to that and obligation on employers, um, that there are hazards that are out there and you do have to figure out how to mitigate against those, to protect your workers and your employees. And so it really understanding what you're trying to protect against is the first thing, I mean, are you trying to mitigate somebody's cough and sneeze from reaching somebody else, or are you trying to protect yourself from somebody that might be sneezing on you? So, you know, workplaces have evolved and changed very rapidly in terms of how you even layout the setup. Do you have, um, plastic encasings and covering to separate individual workstations? If you're an assembly line, um, are you changing your practices of who comes in, who comes out in the office on a daily basis if you're in a, in a work in an office environment? Um, so one of the things, I mean, face coverings were sort of ubiquitous. Um, you saw them a lot. It's a practice over in, um, in the Pacific Rim area where just as a matter of public health, uh, uh, and, uh, pollution and things like that, consumers are wearing it. So it was very easy to understand why we gravitated toward that. Um, then you got into some challenges of what are you protecting, what is the intended purpose of the product? Um, and there are various test methods to buy into that, to evaluate the material, to evaluate penetration, um, and the science is ever evolving. So what you might see today as a, as a quality product is based on what the known, uh, aspects are. And as those evolve, as studies are conducted, as more data becomes known, um, you may see changes in the standards or in the pass fail criteria or product design. Um, and then you may also see how employers are adapting completely where they follow the hierarchy of controls, and maybe that's not an issue anymore. So where ISEA landing, you know, we organized our members to have an understanding because they all are conscientious about providing a safe work environment, um, is to recognize how we can make a product, how we can level set some, some areas, some performance to do that. And ASTM international was also working on a similar project. And, um, they, they had some scientists, they had some good research behind them. They were moving and where we decided was let's influence what they're doing. You know, there's no need to create additional market confusion, especially in a new product space, but let's influence what we see because, um, many factors come to standards development with a very different perspective than maybe end users do or regulators. Everybody's got a different approach. Um, and that's, what's the beauty of us, of a consensus based standard is you're taking all of that information and digesting it and processing it in a way that promotes the greater good. It may not be perfect, uh, but it certainly is solid. It's transparent. Uh, it is, it is consensus based. And so everybody has the opportunity to engage. ISEA was very successful in influencing some of the content that initially was going to be burdensome, perhaps unrealistic and not meaningful. And through the several iterations in the contributions of the association and its member companies, um, were able to land on a published ASTM standard that is reasonable. That's not to say that again, it won't go through iteration, but for what has been published right now, it is reasonable and reflects a practical approach to evaluating those pronouns.

Allie (15:17):
That's really awesome. I mean, like you said, there's so many people that are involved in this and especially with COVID and how quickly it came on and how quickly things had to change. There was a period of time where it was almost not to the level, but kind of anything goes, do something to protect yourself. And now we're a year into this and the way in which we've evolved in the way in which your standard has evolved is, is pretty incredible to see. Um, so, you know, safety managers, as they're listening to this and continuing to deal with COVID, I mean, right now it's late March of 2021. Uh, we don't know certainly what the future holds, but what kind of suggestions would you give to them as they're looking at putting in a policy in place for what makes sense on their job sites?

Cristine (16:04):
Um, I, you know, you start with the top level as you do with any workplace and you look at the hazard and in some cases, the employee is the hazard that the health, um, output, or, you know, the, the biological output of the worker is in some cases, the, the hazard. So the employee is the source control. And so you do have to be mindful and take what you would find to be potentially universal precautions, regular, you know, if you're, you know, be flexible with your workplace, you know, health policies and things like that, and, and what I've read and what I've seen, um, the community has really stepped up and is taking that to, you know, great lengths. And, um, regulators are starting to look at that, HR policies are starting to evolve, and things like that. When you're talking product selection, I, I would always start with know your people. Know who you're buying from. I that's not to say that there are not, um, quality compliant products that are available through a variety of channels, whether it's online or somebody else's, um, you know, storefront, um, but in a safe workplace, when you're talking workplace safety, you have to know who you're dealing with, that the conscientious companies are going to be open. They're going to be transparent. Um, they're going to invest in making sure that their product is a quality one and does what it's supposed to do. So my top line is always know who know, who you're buying from. Just know.

Allie (17:37):
Absolutely that's, you know, back to the ANSI 107, you know, conversation it's it's, you don't want to provide a false sense of security. So that, that makes a ton of sense. Are there some specific testing models that you think people should be looking towards to make sure that the people they are buying from are, you know, evaluating their product via those standards or those tests?

Cristine (18:01):
Yeah, I think the first thing, um, again, with the publication of the new ASTM international standard, which I believe is designated 3502, there are labeling requirements for products that are deemed to meet the performance criteria. So I certainly would start with that. Though that's not to say that there may not be mislabeled products out there in the marketplace over time, but at least start with that. So familiarize yourself with, you know, what a product label would look like, what, um, information it's conveying, certainly educate yourself on standard itself. And I know that's a daunting task because it's a moving target, but I, at first point, know, know, know, that there's something out there and be confident that as a baseline recognize that ASTM standard and then reverse engineer a little bit of an, okay, the label says this, do I, do I need that? How much do I need? And then I'm buying from somebody or somebody's advertising XYZ. Um, am I familiar with that company? Um, do they have testing data to support because that standard does require that the materials be evaluated by an accredited lab. So don't be afraid to ask questions about who tested your product. Do you know, are you willing to share a test report? You know, some of those B2B kind of pieces of information that you're going to need to make an informed decision. And I, the I'm confident that companies are, are willingly opening up their, uh, customer service lines to accept questions. So they're developing FAQ's, you know, they're designing products, they're keeping the customer in mind because they know that there are so many challenges out there. So many products that are out there that there's a competitive advantage to being in front. But also again, that societal benefit of this is something that we've not seen before. The standard is new. Um, it's not a respirator, in the traditional sense, so you do have to do a little more educating, um, for those who aren't familiar with respiratory protection programs. And I, then I just comes back down to that confidence that you have and working with people that, you know.

Allie (20:20):
Yeah. I mean, very, very well said. I could not have said it better myself. And I think when you talk about the testing criteria and the test reports, you know, that's something for the years that I've worked here at Ergodyne, we get questioned about it all the time. And I know at first I was kind of like, whoa, like, why do you need to see our test reports? But now it is almost like a sense of pride. It's like, yeah, actually all of our products have been tested to the standard here is that data. We are happy to provide it for you because exactly like you said, it could be a competitive advantage. And our goal is always the same as to make sure that all of these workers make it home safely at the end of the night and continue living a happy life. And if, if our test report and our assurance that this product is doing, what it's meant to do can help that here's all the data that you want, uh, really is what it comes down to. But so all of this is incredible information, um, very, very relevant, but now, you know, I'll kind of lead with, or leave us with one final question of, you know, with vaccines being administered and things kind of changing, opening up a little bit more. What do you see as the evolution of face coverings in the workplace? Is this going to be something that goes on for quite some time, or what do you kind of think might happen?

Cristine (21:38):
There's a couple things. One is, I think we all have heard that OSHA may publish an emergency temporary standard, which is going to require, um, non-traditional occupations, if you will, or those that weren't subject to a level of face coverings or respiratory protection to do a little more due diligence and maybe have to change some of their policies and programs. Um, but beyond what the regulatory landscape is, I think there's going to be a lot of, um, social contract management, um, in terms of just that level of confidence that the product is, and maybe a concern that you don't know what the next outbreak might look like. And so are you, are you being proactive by continuing to wear something? So as to mitigate any kind of exposure, either again, if it's coming from you or toward you, uh, I think you're going to see more and more of that. Um, and perhaps as vaccines become more effective as they become more prevalent, um, there may be a lessening of it. That's not to say that the product won't have a purpose, um, and you never know what comes next. And the next iteration of a voluntary standard may have to take into consideration some new and novel pathogens that need to be tested in a different way, or there's new levels that are set using the current method because you've learned a little bit more about spread and impact, um, of, of the contaminant. So I, I see that these will be for these will be around for a while, whether it's as a public health product or as a, uh, a worker PPE item.

Allie (23:30):
Yeah. I think that makes a lot of sense. And I think I probably speak for a lot of people that I hope we are not in another situation as we are today, but any small amount of thing that we can do to prevent something like that from happening again in the future I'm onboard with. Thank you so much. That was really awesome information.

Cristine (23:49):
You're welcome. Thank you to Ergodyne and your team.

Al (23:55):
Okay, back with you on Radio Free Tenacity, the voice of worker safety. Wonderful chat there with Cristine. You know, a lot of great insight on the topic of face covering and really safety culture as a whole. And, you know, before we get too deep into that and to unpacking that Allie, I thought it might be helpful for our audience to maybe have you hone in a bit on the question you can pose about what workers should actually be looking for in a face mask.

Allie (24:23):
Yeah, absolutely. Al you know, the pandemic has just consumed all of our lives for the last year or so. So it's easy to forget that this is still a very novel and new topic for many on the job site and for anyone in general, you know, construction, transportation, telecom, places where face covering wasn't necessarily a standard at all. And certainly wasn't something that was issued on their job site. And then add to the fact that we're constantly learning new info, you know, analysis is pretty much happening real time with adoption. So it can be a bit of a moving target to keep up with.

Al (24:56):
For sure. For sure. So, you know, what are you telling work crews? Can you maybe just give us a quick primer of, of maybe the basic considerations?

Allie (25:04):
Yeah, for sure. I think, you know, the first thing is that it's critical to begin with the understanding that most American work sites are categorized as the low to medium level of risk of exposure as according to OSHA's worker exposure risk pyramid. Those in the high to very high strata of the pyramid are those that are in medical, post-mortem, and the lab settings.

Al (25:27):
Okay. All right. So, so understanding the nuance of exposure risk is key. Not every situation really calls for an N95, right?

Allie (25:37):
Exactly and, you know, you think at the beginning of the pandemic, everything was about the N95 mask. And in fact, there are many cases where that level of protection can actually hinder the health and productivity of the worker. Think of a construction worker toiling away in the middle of July and trying to breathe with an N95. You know, you can just create an additional risk by trying to solve for another here. So selecting the most appropriate face covering is very situational. And, you know, you have to take into consideration of filtration, breathability, and comfort matched with that worker's risk level.

Al (26:11):
Is there maybe like, uh, do you have a good use case to maybe illustrate what you're talking about in terms of the situational consideration?

Allie (26:19):
Yeah, for sure. You know, the airline industry is a great case study for how a worksite might implement different protective solutions. Working in a confined and heavily trafficked space, flight attendants would necessitate the highest level of available filtration. But on the opposite side of that spectrum is the ground crew who are more easily able to distance on the job. You know, these workers might benefit most from a solution that maybe provides less filtration, but more breathability for comfort and safety during strenuous physical tasks, like baggage handling and things like that. Multi-bands or neck gaitors are really good examples of that. But then, you know, on the flip side, you have other workers throughout the airport that can fall somewhere in between and depending on their daily tasks, you know, whether it be a gate agent or, um, wheelchair pushers, things of that nature, they might elect to wear a more multi-purpose face covering that provides a more even balance of breathability and filtration, something like a dual layered surgical type mask or options with disposable filters.

Al (27:21):
Okay. That makes sense. That makes sense. Is there maybe like one, uh, defining quality that, that we should be, um, holding up kind of like prioritizing a consideration when we're looking for masks?

Allie (27:36):
Yeah. I mean, I'd say a key component to whatever you decide is ultimately fit. As air will always take the path of least resistance, aerosols will leak out of open spaces, created by an ill-fitting mask. So, you know, one thing is you want to look for face coverings with a large surface area that fits snugly around the contours of your face and allow for a certain degree of customization, you know, different sizes, fit adjustments, nose pieces, all of that. And, you know, we all have different shapes of faces and comfort is a big piece here because at the end of the day, you want people to wear the face covering otherwise it's useless. And, you know, the added bonus here is a better fitting mask will also reduce fogged up glasses, which as we know, has been a huge component of job site irritability,

Al (28:23):
The bane of COVID existence, for sure. Um, definitely an annoying thing. So, no, I mean, that all makes sense. And, uh, for our listeners out there, if you want to get a really thorough rundown of face covering considerations, uh, you can search face covering on the Tenacious Blog over on ergodyne.com. That blog is linked right up at the top of the homepage. Super easy to find. So, uh, definitely check that out. All right. So, uh, Allie, throughout the course of your conversation with Cristine, she spoke, um, you know, a lot about the broader mission of ISEA and what that group is doing to protect workers and influence safety standards. Um, so I want to take maybe a minute or two here to dissect that a bit because I think it's something that's vitally important and maybe doesn't really get enough recognition outside of the industrial safety world. Uh, and wouldn't, you know, it, it just so happens that within our walls working amongst us every day is the vice chair of the ISEA board of trustees. And that would be Ergodyne founder and president Tom Votel. Tom, welcome to the pod.

Tom (29:30):
Thank you, Al and Allie. Great to with be ya.

Al (29:34):
Outstanding it's great to have you here. And, uh, you know, the, the main thrust of this episode, uh, is, is face covering and that evolution. But in listening to Cristine speak about ISEA's role in worker safety, she, she kept bringing up these themes that sounded familiar. Themes of the greater good, societal benefits, transparency. And I realized they sounded familiar because they're all things I've heard from you when it comes to the work we're doing at Ergodyne. Um, so before we kind of get into the I, before we get into ISEA and the role you play there, I think it'd be awesome to kind of get your philosophy on what it means to be a manufacturer of work gear. I mean, it obviously goes beyond just business, as I've heard you say safety is special. So what makes safety special?

Tom (30:21):
You referenced this comment that somebody made many, many years ago when I was just starting out in this, uh, in this industry, which is safety is special. And, and I think it should be pretty obvious why that is, I think, um, the safety industry and the medical device or healthcare industry, um, most people sort of see, um, the, uh, the, the innate goodness in what we do, which is we're trying to in the safety space, we're trying to, um, make sure that workers get home at night. It sounds really trite, but it's really true. Um, and so when you're building stuff, uh, that helps people live a healthy, safe, longer lives um, you know, that, that is what I think, um, makes it really wonderful when you get up in the morning and, and go to the workplace, uh, cause you know, you're changing somebody's life for the better, and that's a really positive thing. And I think that's shared by people in the safety industry. And I certainly hope that it's shared by, and I know it is cause I talked to a lot of, uh, you guys in our company. Um, I know that that's something that is near and dear to everyone's heart. I also think that from a company that makes safety devices, it also puts an enormous amount of responsibility on that particular quest because you want to make sure that whatever you're making, um, does what you're saying it does. So how you, um, how you make that product from a quality perspective, uh, from a, uh, fits and finishes perspective to make sure that it functions and does again, what we're proporting to say that it does. And part of that's just third-party testing. Uh, some of it's just lots of experience in knowing how to build successful high quality products. Um, the other thing is, you know, in your, in your realm, which is on the marketing side, we want to make sure that we're, uh, keeping our brand voice intact. But we're also saying, uh, very clearly, um, you know, what the benefits of that product are, not not puffing them up incorrectly or trying to, uh, make false claims. That's obviously very, very important to us. So as you know, we take pains to make sure from the marcomm aspect of this all, all the way to the fundamental aspects of how that product is built, that it does what we say it's intended to do, its intended purpose.

Allie (32:51):
You know, I know when I look back into, in college and what I thought I wanted to do as a grown-up or an adult still not ready to say that yet. Um, I wanted to be a doctor because at the end of the day, I wanted to save people's lives. And I feel like in this type of position where we are creating PPE and safety products, it's certainly not a doctor's level. It's the same concept as we're trying to improve the livelihoods of these workers and ensure that they do come home safe at night. So in an essence, it's the same concept, but just in a different way to look at it. And I know that in our conversation with Cristine, she talked a lot about, you know, what you brought up is the testing and all the things that go into ensuring that the product that you're putting on the market does what it's intended to do. So, you know, with your role at ISEA, kind of in your own words and in your mind, why do you think it's so important for a group like that to exist?

Tom (33:48):
I think it is a, a, a platform for like minded companies to come together and do the right thing. Um, really for the greater good of the health, safety and welfare of workers. That's what I would say. We, we fundamentally do and you have to be, and it's like-minded. And that, that matters because, um, you know, we don't represent the entire industry and I wish we did, honestly, I don't, I don't understand the mentality of somebody being in our space and not wanting to be part of this conversation. It, it means though that you have to kind of check your ego at the door. Um, you also have to check your own, um, particular company interests at the door, not entirely because those should be represented, particularly if it's, these are technical things, but it, it, you are actually collaborating very often in the product group, at the product group level, with your competitors. And so, uh, that, that's kind of a unique thing that, that happens in that moment. Um, but it's a big deal because what you, all of a sudden, you're in this space with all these competitors and you know that out in the marketplace you're competing with each other, but in this special kind of hallowed place, you're going to do the right thing. And you're gonna be thinking about how that product should perform, what specifications are really required. Are they practicable, you know, for our, all of our customers to understand what those mean and how they then can use those and make sure that those workers are protected properly. And I think what happens is it's kind of like, you know, the dialectic, you know, uh, you just, you come to a higher truth, hopefully if it works out, it does not always, uh, uh, but, but usually it works out that you just have gotten a bunch of, you know, competitors together and tried to figure out the right thing to do. This is often by the way, in the, the vacuum of OSHA's inability to generate a standard around that particular issue. Very often what we're doing is, is ahead of those standards. Now that's not to denigrate OSHA by the way, because, um, taking, uh, passing legislation and passing standards is a very, very difficult thing to do. Those are fraught with all kinds of, you know, it's a minefield of political special interests. So what hangs in the breach then is a group like ISEA to come in and craft a standard, uh, that, that, again, like-minded manufacturers, um, can can are promulgating for, to make sure their products work, do what they say they're supposed to do at some basic level of, uh, uh, specificity, uh, which is what the standards generally do.

Al (36:47):
For sure. And I, you know, to that point, Tom, I was wondering if maybe you could tell us a bit about how you and the rest of the board, you know, inform the direction of ISEA. And then I don't know, maybe take us through how the sausage is made in terms of how that direction actually becomes one of the desired outcomes ISEA endeavors to produce, right. Namely safety standards, but, um, you know, also the education and advocacy piece of it.

Tom (37:15):
Sure. Uh, well, the, um, those are two things, so let's help me remember that second one, but on, in terms of where this comes from, you know, ISEA takes a direction from the member companies. Um, but your question is really right, but where does, how does that manifest itself? Well, we do get together, obviously there's a well there's product groups and that's really, um, kind of where the rubber meets the road specifically as it relates to our standard setting. And this is where these competing, like-minded companies get together, manufacturers get together and promulgate standards and then on a five-year cycle because these are ANSI, we follow the ANSI process, uh, we update those standards. Um, but, um, we also are, we're an organization, but we're a business organization. And so we use, you know, smart, strategic planning on a regular basis to think through what are emerging risks, what are, what are, you know, try to look around the corner and see, you know, ancillary risks and associated risks and trends and other sorts of things that are happening. I mean, this whole, we're gonna, I think eventually talk about barrier face coverings. That was something that just, you know, blew up, uh, in the past 18 months or 12 months really, um, during COVID. Um, and, uh, and all of a sudden, you know, there was a sense by, again, these like-minded people to say, Hey, there's gotta be a standard here. What are these things? What do they do? Well, that is the purpose of, of not only our organization, but others, but specifically with regard to ISEA, that was something we wrestled with in terms of trying to figure out, should we come up with our own standard, et cetera, et cetera. And, um, and so again, I would say what happens is, um, the product groups really drive, uh, the standard setting. And very often that is a reflection of something that's happening in the workplace that, that, uh, needs to be addressed. It needs a standard to address that, or it's some kind of a new emerging phenomenon dropped objects, for example, a very recent one 121. Um, that was really an emerging trend. Actually, the issues have been around for a long time, you know, gravity, you know, has been around for a little bit. So, you know, but all of a sudden it became clearer that there were solutions, uh, beyond duct tape and bailing wire that could be deployed by, uh, workers and safety pros to fix these problems and address them. Then the question is, okay, great. Those are neat ideas, but we should have a standard around this. We should, we should figure out what are the basic requirements that you need to have in order to, um, solve those problems properly.

Allie (39:59):
Yeah so Tom I think, you know, you bring up one thing that we here at Ergodyne talk a lot about, which is kind of this concept of permanent beta nothing's ever really done. We're constantly refining and improving as new information comes to light. And, you know, you mentioned it with the standards kind of going through a refresh every five years, looking at emerging topics, looking at, you know, what the new information is. And in talking to Cristine, it sounded like much of the same approach, you know, with ISEA, when it comes to developing standards. They're created based on science of the moment, but never truly final because the science, you know, they're based on, especially with regard to face covering is ever evolving. Would you say that's kind of an accurate assessment and how important is that approach or line of thinking to the success of ISEA's mission and credibility?

Tom (40:51):
Yeah at Ergodyne, uh, you know, we are just always, um, trying to figure out how to make things better, cheaper, faster, you know, whatever that, that great combination of things that are, are really wonderful, you know, functioning, high functioning products that our customers, um, require and desire. At ISEA It, it's an interesting observation that you make. And I do think it's similar. It's a little more formulaic. It's a little more, um, the cadence of it is a little more predictable, uh, in the really broad stroke. Meaning, you know, we, if you do an ANSI standard, it means that five years from now, uh, you're going to be updating that standard. But the point is is that while you go from, um, zero to five years, hopefully what's happening is you're accumulating, uh, data points and, and cause things, people are now using that standard. And so, uh, you're getting feedback. Um, and as you march up to that process there, whomever is leading that group is going to be asking those participants, those member participants, Hey, what are you hearing out there is this working? And, and, um, so, you know, that's why you can see like, uh, like with, um, ANSI 107, the high visibility standard, for example, you know, that's, that's been adjusted many, many times because it gets launched and there's no perfect standard. Um, and so you do your best work and you get it out and then you let people react to it and you hear things anecdotally, maybe through questionnaires, whatever. And then you get to that, five-year mark and you say, Hey, we've accumulated all of these criticisms or suggestions or, or whatever. And you assimilate those, prioritize those and kind of argue them out and decide then how you're going to adjust the standard again, to make it even better. And then you go through the process and, um, show that to the public and let people react to it publicly. And then you bring it back and then you refine it again and then you put it out. Um, and, uh, and that's kind of the process. And I think that's just, uh, gets back to this sort of dialectical approach, which is, you're just trying to constantly move toward the higher truth. Um, knowing that, um, and again, you know, I think it might be obvious, but you know, it's like, well, why didn't you wait until, um, you know, uh, the, the standard was perfect? Well, that's the old don't let perfect be the enemy of the good. Sometimes you just got to get something out there, let people react to it. Not that that would ever be a crappy standard, I think, but if you still had a few factions or folks who were concerned about certain things, unless they were truly dangerous, um, that standard wouldn't get out if that was the case, but once it's in pretty darn good shape, it's like, let's get it out there, let people react to it. And then we'll just simply make it better next time. And so there is sort of this desire. It's a little bit of, it's not quite ready, fire aim, um, but it is, it is close to that. Uh, and I think that's a good process because you can't, again, the perfect product sits in a drawer somewhere. And so when it's taken out of the drawer, it's an imperfect product because it's going to, then you're going to react people are going to react to it. And you want that, the question is at Ergodyne and also with ISEA, how do you make that systematic so you are always aggregating that data correctly so you can get to that improvement on that five-year cycle.

Allie (44:33):
Yeah, Tom, I think that is just a beautiful way to say that because it's so true. There is no such thing as a perfect product. If there were, there would be no competition in the marketplace, you know, and I think that that's something that through product development is a really important piece. And also through standard development is you're never going to have the answers to those questions until people try it out, or until people start using it. And then it identifies these pain points. It's like, you know what, yes, this does cover X, but now it's created this Y. And you know, at that point it just helps really refine how much safer we can be. Um, and again, at the end of the day, with the goal of protecting these workers on the job site, and, you know, we keep going towards that goal of zero injuries and zero fatalities and things are going to constantly refine, you know, you mentioned ANSI 107, we have 121 that will go through some changes. And it's, it's a positive thing to see changes happen because it means we're learning things, we're making things better. And, you know, again with that ultimate goal of reducing those injuries and fatalities. So that's just a, I think a really great way that you kind of presented that issue.

Tom (45:45):
Well, thanks. And I was also gonna say your, your point about what you're doing with the airlines, where you you're spending a lot of time and really developed tremendous expertise. Um, you know, you can see what you were just saying before about the, uh, the new people who are wearing respiratory protection, who never wore it before. Well, you know, uh, it's, it's, those products were not originally designed for those folks. So now, uh, the real world and concerned, uh, and smart manufacturers like us need to say, Hey, those folks need to be protected, but the product as originally designed doesn't exactly work very well for them. So we're going to have to modify it for this new use. And again, permanent beta. You're just always that sort of stuff happens in life. And then you adjust and you modify and adapt those products for those new uses.

Al (46:40):
So under, understanding that, you know, safety is, you know, worker safety is a progression and all that, I kind of want to go back to, uh, face covering in COVID. And I mean, how do you even get traction, um, when it comes to worker safety and a situation that comes on so quickly, and so large scale? Like how do, again, do you even get a foothold into finding some minimum baseline of criteria to validate and breed confidence in those solutions? I mean, both from a manufacturer PPE, but also from where you said on, uh, ISEA.

Tom (47:20):
Yeah, that's a good, good question. And those are, those are different answers in a way, because of course, um, you know, I have to, I have my ISEA hat on, I'm looking at the broader thing, representing a broad constituency of, of manufacturers and their, their interests. You know, you need, there's a fair mindedness with regard to that, that just simply has to be in place when you're taking a look at that from my position. So I would look at those things similar, but different. Just on the, just from a Ergodyne perspective and, and even in a way, a little bit from ISEA, cause ISEA waded into this area it's being, you know, ISEA is where people go now to, you know, ask questions about PPE. So the, the, uh, you know, media, many, many other folks outside of the safety business are really calling up ISEA and saying, Hey, you know, what is your thought about this? So we're becoming kind of this oracle for that sort of thing, which is wonderful because there's tremendous institutional knowledge at this organization, which has been around for a long, long time doing this, by the way. Um, and, but in terms of just the whole face mask thing, it's really interesting. I was thinking about this before we got together today that, you know, if you think about the CDC and I'm not being critical by the way, because I think when you just look at what happened, you know, there was this in, you know, January, February when all of us were clueless, um, mostly to this, we are hearing about it and it was just sort of out in the ether somewhere on the periphery of our, of our consciousness. Um, but we just thought, Hey, you know, it won't ever come here or whatever, which was foolish. Um, and then it became really clear as we marched closer to what was it now, I guess march is the, uh, good pun, but it wasn't March 11th is that our official, you know, 9/11 date for, um, you know, COVID I, the start of, you know, I guess it's a pandemic and the U S finally recognized that and things started to shut down and people were freaking out. Um, I think it was roughly around that, that, uh, that time. Anyway, the thing is, um, CDC, uh, initially said, people should not wear face masks. The problem is they didn't really explain why they said that, or they didn't, they didn't very, they didn't explain it very well, or they let the media who was ignorant of what was behind that. If in fact it was, cause I'm not sure that it was got away with that. And that, that almost encouraged the unfortunate politicization, you know, of the whole masking face covering issue, um, which, and the reason the CDC did that was N95's, there was a shortage. And so they wanted to make sure that people didn't run and take all the N 90 fives, because they were smart enough to realize that frontline healthcare workers who are working with people who are dying and really sick needed to be protected. So that was an intelligent thing to do. Um, except it just wasn't explained terribly well. So it kind of started this interesting sort of cascading effect of all of this, uh, whip sawing back and forth, or, you know, masks. Our situation was interesting because we are not in the N95 mask business today. Um, but we had a face covering, which was our multi-band as we call it, or, uh, now a gaitor as people are calling them, which is maybe unfortunate, but it is what it is. And so, um, we had this situation when all of a sudden CDC adjusted their position and said, actually just put anything on, you know, just to cover your face. Um, and so there was this, there actually discussions about you, you know, cotton from the UK was better than cotton, it was like, oh my God. You know, so you had this Etsy, you know, I think the, the half the multi-billion dollars of increased sales that Etsy think there up, I saw the other day, they're up like 550% during the pandemic. Probably half of that is due to barrier face coverings made by artisans. Now that was really cute almost as like an old victory garden kind of war effort. So it was kind of people coming together and being enterprising and selling cute masks, and that those are single ply masks for the most part. And then they were, you know, then all of a sudden there was this dual ply mask. So with this kind of evolving sort of thing, that was really, really hard to keep up with. And then there was, there were people condemning, you know, gaitors, you had the infamous, you know, Duke study, which was misinterpreted and, and, and the like people were, it's just like the 10 o'clock news. You know, you see these tiny little studies that are, are, uh, are being communicated as as fact. And, you know, people then freak out, you know, it's like, uh, eggs, they'll kill, ya know, eggs are really great. Well, what is it? You know? And so part of it is the natural evolution of science, which does have this messy aspect to it. Part of it's just what's happening with humanity in a crisis. People are concerned and trying to protect themselves and trying to protect their employees so they can continue to function. So I just think there was this crazy time. And, uh, and frankly, we were in the middle of it trying to bring some order to at least the space that we are in, which was a barrier face coverings. And we've attempted to try to do that, and that's not been easy. Um, and it's still, there's still a lot of challenges ahead.

Al (53:04):
Yeah. And, and actually, it's, it's that point, uh, where I kind of want to wrap up and, and go from that question from, you know, early on it was, do we even need to wear them? Well now with the vaccine rollout, ya know, there seems to be this creeping question of, do we need to continue to do we need to continue to wear them? And, you know, obviously the, the science says the best way to stop any of these new variants coming in is eliminating, eliminating that to be the transmission altogether, right? Um, meaning source control, distancing, masks, um, and that fact alone should kind of make it seem like this category isn't going anywhere anytime soon. I mean, what do you think, putting you in the role of TomStradamus.

Tom (53:49):
Haha, yeah, that's nice. Okay. Uh, actually I do think a lot about this and I'm trying to pay a lot of attention to a lot of the stuff that's being set out there, and then you just kind of have, but what, what, what's real, what makes sense? First of all, I just looked up at, I just looked up the CDCs most recent position on this, and it is basically, do I need to wear a mask when I'm with other vaccinated, fully vaccinated people? Their answer is no. Do I need to wear a mask when I'm with people who I'm not sure I've asked or are un-vaccinated answer is yes. And continue to social distance. Now the question is, is that the right? Is that correct or not? Now I think, I think as more and more. And so there's lots of parts to this, you know, if we, because even if we effectively get to herd immunity and there's some argument to what that number is, but most agree used to be like 50 or 60 or 60% or more. And now most people say it's 70 or 80%. If the us has really strong compliance and I actually think the numbers are, are pretty amazing. You know, we, we had a very tough go of it in the early days of COVID for a whole variety of reasons. We, that that's another podcast or 10, but, uh, but the US actually is doing really well. Um, and the UK is doing really well. The other countries are doing terrible. I mean, they're really doing terrible. Um, we are also blessed by having Moderna and Pfizer based here, and they happen to use MRNs. So they lucked out and got the, even though, uh, actually the Pfizer product was developed in Germany by another company, but they don't distribute product. So Pfizer is the distributor of it, but regardless, and then with J and J you just have, uh, uh, a lot of really great companies getting product finally into the arms of people. I think last weekend, US inoculated four and a half million people on Sunday, like, like, or Saturday before Easter Sunday or whatever, it was crazy. That's a big, big number. And a, and I just talked to somebody in, you know, Denmark. They have, uh, they have vaccinated 13,000 people, you know, that's not a big country, but still, it's a tiny, tiny amount of people and they're having their AstraZeneca issues, but here's the deal. The deal is, is that what nobody knows is how long does this last? Is this your tetanus booster? Is this, or is this like a flu shot or your measles, mumps, rubella, or, or a flu shot, meaning it only lasts for about a year. And in fact it probably lasts the flu vaccine probably lasts less than that, but that's why you wait until September, October. And hopefully by March, April, when flu is over, you know, you've been covered and, you know, you didn't get it. And they guessed right on the quadrivalent, you know, vaccine that you got is. And with the various, I think you're going to see depending on how long the vaccine lasts. And again, that's not known there's people who are testing that and speculating. I think now they're saying at least six months, I think there's solid evidence that shows six months plus, but that isn't a year and it isn't five years it isn't 10 years. So what is it? I think that it's the real honest answer is they don't know yet. So assuming, you know, it becomes like the flu vaccine. We're probably going to have a quadrivalent flu vaccine every year. And we're probably going to have, you know, a bivalent, trivalent, quadrivalent, you know, um, or quintravalent, if there's such a thing, uh, you know, um, COVID vaccine, uh, we might have to get a booster every year. I, I think that's an unknown thing. So therefore, what does that mean when COVID and flu season and cold season come around? It means that workers are probably gonna say, and employers are probably going to have to say, we're going to wear masks. Now whether they require that or whether, you know, that's voluntary or, or what that is, I think really remains to be seen. But I do think that's a big deal, uh, that we're all going to have to figure out. So we entered this space kind of through the back door, uh, with the multi-band we've all we've added, obviously face masks now, uh, the other barrier face masks, uh, two ply, three ply, uh, face masks, which are, are great quality and have great features and benefits. We are working to try to find an appropriate test method so we can communicate to our customers exactly what those do. Um, and, and so we're going to keep pushing our testing and make sure that we're doing the right stuff there, but in terms of society, what we do, I think a lot of that remains to be seen, but I just am guessing that masks are going to be around for awhile. Handshaking is going to change, you know, the sign of peace at church is probably going to change. And a lot of other things that, you know, people are used to doing, you know, when you walk up to somebody and you're saying, hi, you're kind of have that awkward hands in your pants, you know, sorta moment. Cause you're not going to shake hands. You know, I just think it's, it's going to be interesting.

Al (58:41):
I'm writing all this down Tom and we're going to circle back and we're going to check back on it in a year.

Tom (58:45):
Yeah well I'm, I'm...

Al (58:45):
To see how clairvoyant you are.

Tom (58:47):
Exactly. Well, I think I hedged enough to be right on, right on a lot of accounts. I mostly said, I don't know.

Allie (58:57):
That's true. Well, I think, I think we'll look back at this and say, you know, he was kind of right in this regard and also kind of right in this regard.

Tom (59:04):
See yeah so I have a future in politics is what I think you're saying.

Al (59:07):
Played it perfectly. So Tom, I can't thank you enough um, for, for joining us on the pod. We look forward to having you back on, on this topic and any number of topics in the, in the very near future. So thank you for gracing the, with, uh, with your appearance.

Tom (59:23):
Okay guys. Thanks so much.

Al (59:25):
Stay safe out there people.