Skip Navigation

Summer 1998 Volume 2

Feature Articles

Taming The Y2K Challenge
By now, you have probably heard enough facts and predictions about the “Year 2000 Challenge” to last you well into the next millennium. Everyone is talking about the potential inability of computers and embedded chips to recognize the Year 2000 as a valid date. Whether you call it Y2K, century date change or the millennium bug, the impact is all the same — as computers become unable to read dates accurately, data will be lost or corrupted, and some computer systems and embedded chips will fail altogether.

Regardless of the industry in which you operate, if your activities include building ownership, operating information systems, selling products or services to customers, or working with a variety of suppliers and/or vendors, you need to take action now to become Year 2000 compliant. Experts agree that not only can your business or organization be directly affected by Y2K issues relating to your own systems, but you can be indirectly affected through your contacts. For example, a vendor’s unresponsiveness to their own Y2K challenge could cause lost profits or growth opportunities for you.

Companies and organizations throughout the world are investing millions of dollars and hours to avert any disaster that could result from the change of the century date. The impact this problem could have on day-to-day operations is staggering. However, you can tame the challenge by taking the necessary steps to identify and manage all your Year 2000 exposures, internally as well as externally.

A Four-Step Process To Y2K Compliance
Developing management to prepare your business for the Year 2000 is of great urgency if you have not done so already. For management to develop the information necessary to make sound decisions, your organization must create an open communication process involving all functional areas. Management needs to commit to minimizing the challenges associated with this issue.

The goal of a successful plan of action should result in all software, hardware or embedded chips being classified as “ready” because they demonstrate an ability to manipulate data involving the turn of the century date without causing problem-ending scenarios within a system, failure of embedded systems or generation of corrupt data.

There is not going to be any single Year 2000 solution that fits everybody’s needs. Your plan of action should take advantage of all resources available to you, including your insurance agent, your business or trade association, the Internet and your peers. Despite the wide range of issues you may be facing, the following four step process may be helpful to you in becoming Y2K compliant.

  • Identify and Inventory Your Exposures - List all of the different computer-based systems (including all software, hardware and related components), service providers, suppliers and any products that contain embedded chips that relate to your business.
  • Assessment and Prioritization - Start with the most critical items on the inventory. Determine which systems are date-sensitive and verify if they will fail at the turn of the century. Once you have determined the state of readiness of each system, service, supplier and component listed in your inventory, develop a strategy for correcting those systems or verifying the readiness of others’ systems.
  • Correction and Testing - Verify that the repaired or replaced system will operate properly when the date changes, existing business functions will continue to operate as expected and the products you sell or use with embedded chips function properly. Once your systems are Year 2000 compliant, take the necessary steps to ensure that any subsequent changes do not contaminate those systems with Y2K bugs. Over 20 dates other than Jan. 1, 2000, also pose potential failure problems.
  • Implementation and Contingency Planning - Your plan of action should document all steps taken, including testing, to ensure that all systems work. While the goal of any business professional is to eliminate the chances of malfunctions, problems may still arise, and it is essential to have a contingency plan. This overall plan should develop the alternative actions available for identified breakdown scenarios.

By working together with various departments within your organization and your vendors and suppliers, you can gain a sense of control over the Year 2000 Challenge.

What Systems are at Risk?
The Y2K defect exists in very large numbers and in various types of computer systems. As the following list indicates, everything from mainframe computers to micro-wave ovens, elevators to cellular phones could be impacted.

  • Mainframe computers
  • Midrange computers
  • Client/server systems
  • Embedded chips (microprocessors)

No wonder some experts are warning people to stay off planes and elevators and keep out of hospitals on January 1, 2000. After all, wherever there are computers or embedded chips, there are potential Y2K problems, and the failure of these systems to make the transition to the next millennium could mean everything from small inconveniences to major disasters.

Drugs are just as much a problem in the workplace as they are else- where. It is estimated that nationwide, almost 10 percent of employees use drugs in the workplace (National Institute on Drug Addictions). This is costing businesses more than $100 billion per year, directly and indirectly.

  • Drug-abusing employees acquire 300 percent higher medical costs which result in increased health insurance rates.
  • Illicit drug users are five times more likely to file a workers' compensation claim. (Drug users have 3.6 times as many accidents.)
  • A substance abuser will function at about 67 percent of his/her capacity.
  • Employees using drugs are three times more likely to be late for work and 2.5 times more likely to have absences of eight or more days.

A drug-free workplace program can help you curb these costs by reducing operational costs, protecting loyal employees, improving products and services, and helping people lead healthier lives.

Implementing a drug-free workplace program will be easier if you include employees in the process. This will boost morale and result in better acceptance of the plan by the workforce. Management-driven programs have a much higher probability of being challenged through litigation than those programs that have the full confidence of both management and company employees.

The following are the standards that were most frequently cited by Federal OSHA from October 1996 to September 1997 for all industries.

  • Hazard communication
  • Scaffolding (construction industry)
  • Lockout/tagout
  • Fall protection
  • Electrical, wiring methods, components and equipment
  • Mechanical, power-transmission apparatus (machine guarding)
  • Machines, general requirements
  • Electrical systems design
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Respiratory protection

Compliance with OSHA standards can be overwhelming. EMC’s Loss Control staff can assist you with this task by providing information and consultation towards compliance.

For assistance, contact your independent agent who can put you in touch with this trained staff of representatives, engineers, consultants and industrial hygienists.


National Injury Rates Declining

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of occupational injury and illness rates has been declining since 1992. The chart to the right represents the number of injuries divided by every 200,000 person hours worked.

Top Five Causes of Work-Related Deaths

  1. Highway traffic accidents
  2. Homicide
  3. Falls
  4. Struck by objects
  5. Electrocution