Fall 2003 Volume 21

Feature Articles

Building ablaze

What do an art gallery in Oregon, the National Archives in Virginia, a New York City Hospital and a Red Cross facility in Australia have in common? They are all success stories for automatic sprinkler systems. In each case, properly installed and maintained sprinkler systems reduced fire damage and helped get these organizations back to work as quickly as possible.

Firefighters are very effective at extinguishing most fires, but even with their rigorous training, courageous determination and prudent response time, they cannot be there during the early stages of a fire. The key to water-based fire protection is applying water to the fire in the earliest possible stages of the blaze.

Firefighters spraying water on fire

Or as firefighters say, “put the wet stuff on the red stuff.” Based on numerous reports and data from fire departments throughout the world, automated sprinkler systems have been proven to be the most effective means of controlling fire in a building.

What Can An Automated Sprinkler System Do For You?

  • Save lives — The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has not recorded a single fire killing more than two people in a fully sprinkled public assembly, educational institution or residential building where the system was working properly. Overall, the death rate in building fires where sprinklers are present is only half of those in non-sprinkled building fires.
  • Reduce property loss — According to NFPA, sprinklers typically reduce the average property loss by one-half to two-thirds in all properties. This is due to water delivery in the early fire stages and significantly less water damage than that of public fire protection response. One study showed that the average loss cost is nearly 10 times greater for fires in buildings with combustible construction without sprinklers than with the same construction with sprinklers.
  • Reduce property insurance cost — The installation cost of a sprinkler system could be recovered from reduced premium in as little as a few years. This payback is much quicker if sprinklers are installed during building construction versus a retrofit installation.
  • Reduce downtime — Because automatic sprinkler systems have been proven to contain fires at their earliest stages, most businesses suffering a fire are able to resume operations much quicker than those where the fire is left to its own devices and spreads quickly through a facility.
  • Peace of mind — The impressive fire sprinkler track record is due, in part, to a very low failure rate. The failures that do occur typically are due to improper maintenance or inadequate sprinkler system design, not in the operation of the devices themselves.

Experience has proven that automatic fire sprinklers are the best method of protecting lives and property. Count on EMC loss control professionals to have the expertise to assist you with the design, installation, inspection and/or maintenance of an automated sprinkler system.

Myth:

In a fire event, every sprinkler activates.

Truth:

Actually, sprinklers are heat activated. The majority of fires in protected buildings are controlled by four sprinklers or less and a single sprinkler usually controls residential fires.

Myth:

Water damage from a sprinkler system will be more costly than the fire damage.

Truth:

Actually, fire and smoke will be less extensive with sprinkler protection and the discharge from a single sprinkler is roughly a tenth of the rate from a fire hose.

Myth:

Smoke detection provides enough protection.

Truth:

Smoke detection does save lives by providing early warning of a fire, but does nothing to stop or limit smoke and fire damage. Detectors also do nothing to protect infants and those too physically impaired to escape without assistance.

Fire Prevention by the Numbers
  • Every 19 seconds a fire department responded to a fire somewhere in the United States in 2002.
  • In 2002, public fire departments responded to 1,687,500 fires, including 519,000 structure fires, 329,500 vehicle fires and 839,000 outside and other fires.
  • There were 3,380 civilian fire deaths in 2002. Nationwide, there was a civilian fire death every 156 minutes.
  • Home fires caused 2,670 or 79 percent of civilian fire deaths in 2002.
  • Nationwide, there was a civilian fire injury every 28 minutes in 2002.

[Figures courtesy of the National Fire Protection Association]

United States Capital Building

Fire sprinklers may save more than lives and property. If legislation introduced by two congressmen is approved, property owners who install fire sprinklers would benefit from tax incentives. Under H.R. 1824 (Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act), sprinkler systems would be classified as five-year property for the purpose of depreciation under federal tax codes. That means a system valued at $100,000 could be depreciated at $20,000 a year for five years. Depreciation under the current schedule occurs over 30 years.

The tragic fires that took the lives of 99 people in a Rhode Island nightclub and another 16 people in a Connecticut nursing home have spurred interest in amending the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to re-classify automatic fire sprinkler systems. Industry groups are now targeting members of the Ways and Means Committee to garner enough votes to bring this legislation out of committee and onto the floor for a vote.

Fireman with an axe

Every year for more than 80 years, the President of the United States has signed a proclamation for Fire Prevention Week. And throughout many of those years, EMC risk improvement representatives and agents have taken the fire prevention message to schools and businesses across the country. You can join the celebration by making your employees more aware of workplace fire hazards. This issue of Loss Control Insights offers tips on sprinkler systems, electric heaters and safety videos. Additional fire prevention tips can be found in the electronic archive of Loss Control Insights at www.emcinsurance.com or by visiting the National Fire Protection Association’s website at www.nfpa.org.

Every 19 seconds, a fire department responds to a fire somewhere in the United States. Nationwide, there is a fire death every 156 minutes (NFPA 2003). A number of these fires and fatalities could be prevented by using containers specially designed for the dispensing of flammable and combustible liquids. Safety cans of various designs are constructed to avoid the danger created by leaks, spills and ignition of flammable vapors. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires companies to use these cans for the storage of all flammable liquids, and many companies require their use to reduce the risk of fire loss to their property.

Safety Can with Spout Example

Classification of Safety Cans

Two different types of safety cans are available for the safer storing and dispensing of flammable and combustible liquids:

Type 1: Used for safely carrying and storing of flammable and combustible liquids.

Type 2: Used for safely dispensing of flammable and combustible liquids. Type 2 cans include a dispensing spout, which enables accurate pouring without the use of a funnel.

Both types of safety cans are substantially constructed with cold-rolled seams to avoid the danger of accidental leakage. Pouring outlets have tight fitting caps held closed by springs to prevent contents from spilling if the can is tipped over. Spark-arresting screens in the outlet and fill connections effectively prevent ignition of vapors inside the cans. All safety cans should be listed or approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory such as UL. ?

Safety Plunger Can Example

Safety Plunger Cans

Each workstation that uses flammable or combustible solvents for parts washing should be equipped with a plunger can that is listed or approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. The operation of a plunger can is such that when the spring-mounted dasher is actuated, a small amount of solvent is pumped into the dasher cup. The solvent is then absorbed into a sponge or rag, and the excess solvent is returned to the can for future use. The perforated metal fire baffle in the dasher cup reduces the escape of harmful vapors and protects against vapor ignition.

Safety Rag Cans

Safety Rag Can Example

Oily and solvent soaked rags can be a serious fire hazard if they are not properly contained. Safety rag cans, also known as oily waste cans are designed to prevent fires caused by the spontaneous combustion of cloths, rags or other materials saturated with flammable and combustible solvents or liquids. These containers should be made of metal, have self-closing lids designed to prevent the release of flammable vapors, and be listed or approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. Safety rag cans should be emptied at least daily to prevent rags from building up and obstructing the lid from closing completely.

Although the use of appropriate safety cans is something inexpensive and simple you can do, the impact this action can have on potential fire loss is substantial.

For additional information about the proper use of safety cans, visit www.osha.gov.

Electric Space Heater

As temperatures begin to drop, the potential for losses related to the use of electric heaters rises. Although these heaters provide needed comfort, they are frequently cited as the starting point for numerous fires. Obviously, the best way to protect your facility and employees is to have a no-electric heater policy. If this is not possible, EMC’s risk improvement specialists offer the following tips for the safer use of these devices.

  • Use only heaters that are approved and listed by a nationally recognized testing agency.
  • Make sure electric heaters are switched off at the end of the workday.
  • Keep heaters at least three feet away from combustible materials, including places where towels or other materials could fall on the device and trigger a fire.
  • If it is absolutely necessary to use an extension cord, be certain that the cord is marked with a power rating at least as high as that of the heater itself.
  • Never place heaters on furniture.
  • Choose models with automatic safety switches that turn off the unit if it is accidentally tipped over.
  • Keep heaters out of high traffic areas.
  • Before turning on any heater, check electrical circuits to make sure they are not overloaded.
  • When using electric heaters, be sure they are included in your regularly scheduled fire prevention inspection program.

Count on EMC for loss control information that will keep you safe while you are keeping warm this coming cold weather season.

Clarifications to OSHA’s Hearing Loss Recordkeeping Regulation

OSHA recently made the following clarifications relating to recording occupational hearing loss in conjunction with the Section 1904.10 final rule. These clarifications affect the shipbuilding industries, computation of a Standard Threshold Shift (STS) and the application of a new two-part test in the recording criteria. For more information about these clarifications, visit www.osha.gov/recordkeeping/clarifications-recordkeeping.html.

Forwarding Articles From Loss Control Insights

Find an article in Loss Control Insights that you think someone in your organization or industry may find of value? E-mail it to them. Current and back issues of EMC’s Loss Control Insights can be found online in the Loss Control section of www.emcinsurance.com.

Local Governments

Children on playground equipment

Once the number one choice for picnic areas, decks and playgrounds, CCA (chromated copper arsenate) treated lumber is no longer a viable choice. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, CCA is a highly toxic chemical formulation of arsenic and chromium, both on the government’s Top 20 Hazardous Substances list. As a result, CCA as a treatment for lumber is being phased out by December 31, 2003.

Experts have voiced their concern that children will be exposed to CCA when they play on playground equipment that is constructed of CCA-treated lumber. Tests have demonstrated that CCA leaches out of CCA-treated wood and will contaminate the surrounding soil.

What can you do if your playground and picnic areas still contain CCA-treated lumber? The answer is not simple because disposal of CCA poses further hazardous waste problems. There are a number of other issues regarding the use, remediation and disposal of CCA-treated lumber. EMC’s loss control specialists have put together a list of websites (below) where you can find up-to-date and accurate information to ensure the safety of your citizens and employees.

Because of the popularity of CCA-treated lumber since the 1970s and the magnitude of the health hazards that have recently been associated with its use, this issue is being closely monitored by safety professionals at EMC. If the websites listed below do not provide you with sufficient information, please ask your agent to contact an EMC risk improvement representative.

Learn more about CCA-treated lumber here...

  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (www.epa.gov) takes you to a list of articles and news releases concerning the CCA issue.

Petroleum Marketers

Faced with rising insurance costs in its industry, the Insurance Task Force of the National Propane Gas Association offered its members the following tips for maximizing the cost-effectiveness of their insurance protection.

  • Be an active member of your national and state associations.
  • Make use of in-house training programs.
  • Conduct background checks and random drug tests on employees.
  • Have your own in-house procedures manual and ensure that employees comply with it.
  • Comply with all insurance company requirements and recommendations.
  • Become politically active and support passage of tort reform laws.
  • Start early in the year on insurance renewals and have all information and data available.
  • Maintain a company attitude of zero tolerance and safe operations.

Sound advice for anyone in the petroleum marketing business!

In its continuing effort to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and businesses, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) revised the hours of service regulations. Compliance with the new requirements noted in this article are mandated on January 4, 2004. Below are some of the changes your drivers should be aware of. These changes should keep the roads safer for everyone, including your drivers!

  • An increase in driving hours and a decrease in on-duty hours for drivers of property-carrying vehicles headlines the revised hours-of-service regulations released by FMCSA.
  • The regulation also includes a new exception for drivers who regularly return to their normal work reporting location. Under this exception, a driver is allowed to accumulate 11 hours of driving time within 16 consecutive hours on duty once every seven days, provided:
    • The split sleeper berth portion of the regulations remains the same, but instead of accumulating eight hours in the sleeper berth in two periods, the driver would have to accumulate 10 hours in the sleeper berth in two periods.
    • The requirements for passenger-carrying vehicles remain the same as the current requirements.
    • A “reset” provision for drivers of passenger-carrying vehicles is not included in the new regulation.

FMCSA is not allowing early compliance with the new requirements. Until January 4, 2004, drivers and motor carriers must comply with the standards currently in place. For specific details of the revised regulations visit www.fmcsa.dot.gov.

Frank Mortimer, EMC field services supervisor who represents the Alliance of America Insurers on the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) LP Gas Code Committee, shares his notes from a recent NFPA meeting:

  • The 2004 edition of NFPA 58, the LP Gas Code, will include a new table listing the quantities of LP gas allowed in a number of occupancies.
  • Cylinder requalification guidelines will be included in the 2004 edition of NFPA 54. In the past, NFPA 58 referred to the guidelines in the Compressed Gas Association Pamphlet C6. This change should help make requalification procedures more available to dealers.
  • Given the recent loss of life incidents in auditorium settings, I was surprised that there was little objection to the proposal that allows “events” to bring 20 pound cylinders of LP into auditoriums. Although I had expected more input from the fire service representatives, this change was accepted and will be included in the new edition.
  • The NFPA is requiring the LP Gas Codes and standards to all have a similar style in the way they are written. An expanded table of contents will be included to help navigate through the format.

Schools

School Building

While working as a school custodian, Doug Eriksen discovered a problem waiting for a solution — all the buildings in his district were ordering, storing and handling cleaning chemicals in a different manner. Today, as operations director of maintenance and custodial for Sergeant Bluff-Luton Community School District in Iowa, Doug has implemented the solution — on-time chemical delivery.

Working with a chemical supply company in St. Joseph, MO., Doug?s school district is able to order chemicals online and have them delivered as needed. In addition, he found an alternative to ordering more costly and cumbersome pre-mixed chemicals. According to Doug, the benefits of his on-time chemical delivery program are making a big difference for the district.

  • Less pilferage — Before on-time chemical delivery was implemented, each school kept an abundance of cleaners, toilet paper and other common household items which tended to disappear quickly.
  • Better inventory control — Before on-time chemical delivery, the district ordered chemicals twice a year. By ordering every two weeks, custodians can visually see and inventory cleaning products.
  • Less waste — Before on-time chemical delivery, the district ordered ready-to-use products. Now each custodial closet is equipped with a mixing station and chemicals are mixed on an as-needed basis at each facility.
  • Less overexertion — Before on-time chemical delivery, chemicals were delivered in five gallon pails. Now half-gallon containers are the norm, making it easier for custodians to move and store chemicals.
  • More cleaning power — Before on-time chemical delivery, chemical supplies would sit on a shelf and lose their potency. Now chemicals are always fresh and ready for full-strength cleaning action.

On-time chemical delivery is making the difference in the Sergeant Bluff-Luton Community School District and it could very well make a difference in your district as well. For more information, have your agent contact Monte Ball, consulting services manager in EMC's Risk Improvement Department.

School Bus

For some 22 million students nationwide, the school day begins and ends with a trip on a school bus. Your school bus drivers carry the responsibility for making sure that school bus travel remains safe.

In recognition of National Bus Safety Week (October 19-25, 2003) EMC offers the following bus safety tips courtesy of the National Highway Traffic Safety Association.

  • Watch for students with long drawstrings, loose clothing or other items that may become caught in handrails.
  • At each stop, monitor the students as they exit the bus. If you are unable to account for a student outside the bus, secure the bus and check around and underneath the vehicle.
  • After each stop, carefully scan the entire area before moving. Be alert for any warnings (from people outside the bus or students inside).
  • Make certain students and parents are aware of basic bus safety tips.

These tips and many others are available online through the National Safety Council website at www.nsc.org.

In addition to these on-the-road tips, the Transportation Health & Safety Administration of Ontario, Canada, encourages drivers to take the following safety precautions at the beginning and end of their day.

  • Check that the driver’s seat belt is correctly worn and fastened.
  • Test the service brakes by driving forward and braking to a stop.
  • Check all gauges.
  • Keep accurate log records.
  • At the end of the bus run, do a physical check to make sure that all students have left the bus.

By taking these and other safety precautions, your school district can assure students and their parents that the bus is a safe place.

Search the Internet for school roof damage and you'll be surprised at what shows up. You will find statistics citing the cost to replace a damaged roof and descriptions of the inconvenience caused to districts by having to close down a school to make repairs. There are also minutes of school board meetings discussing the need for more roof inspections and repairs.

School Roof

Roof maintenance is becoming a hot topic for schools and for two very good reasons - the safety of staff and students and the integrity of structures and balance sheets. To address the issue, EMC Insurance Companies recently teamed up with Benchmark, Inc., a professional roof consulting firm, to conduct roof inspections in selected school districts.

Inspection information is being made available to schools through a web-based database program. The roof management program is designed to achieve the following five specific goals.

  • By identifying potential deficiencies and preventing or correcting minor ones, roof life will be extended and premature use of funds avoided.
  • By identifying most to least critical needs, expenditures will be directed to areas having the greatest need and districts will receive optimum value from every roofing dollar.
  • Onsite inspections will reduce risks and costs associated with building/property damage and safety hazards.
  • All data will be entered into a web-based database, allowing for immediate access and updating. As a result, future management decisions can be based on up-to-date and accurate information.
  • Decreasing risks due to wind, hail and water damage could result in controlling long-term insurance costs.

Now’s the time to make certain your roof can handle the effects of winter weather. Contact your insurance agent to find out how you can participate in EMC's roof management program.

Fall 2003