Winter 2003 Volume 22

Feature Articles

Every year, EMC loss control specialists work closely with insureds to identify potential hazards and implement processes or procedures to reduce the incidence and severity of losses. Here are some of the best loss control practices in which EMC was involved in 2003.

Best Use Of Compliance Benchmarking

A 30-plus location nursing home corporation wanted to know how well it was complying with OSHA’s most frequently cited standards for its industry. EMC’s compliance benchmarking service not only provided the answer, but helped administrators provide a safer workplace.

Working with EMC, the corporation instituted an annual survey to focus on compliance issues. As part of the survey, administrators and staff were interviewed to assess their knowledge of the safety and employee training programs.

About to begin their fourth year of surveys, the corporation is pleased to report a projected 50 percent decrease in claims. Administrators attribute this success to their ability to respond quickly to identified deficiencies. Various engineering controls were implemented as a result of these surveys, including mechanical assist resident lift equipment.

Best Use Of Ergonomics

A manufacturer was concerned about the increased incidence of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) being reported. With the assistance of EMC, the manufacturer established a safety committee which developed a list of the “Top 10 Jobs Needing Ergonomic Improvements.” Members of the committee performed a Job Hazard Analysis on the jobs and recommended the following actions:

  • The manufacturing process was updated to allow repetitive tasks to be performed by a machine rather than a person.
  • Lift tables, floor mats and task lighting were added to reduce back, leg and eye strains.
  • All employees attended ergonomic training sessions.

Ten months into the program the company has reduced MSD claims by nearly 60 percent.

Best Use Of Supervisor Accountability Programs

To recover from ongoing losses and an increasing experience modifier, a contractor turned to EMC for assistance with developing a written Supervisor Accountability program. The program requires supervisors to enforce safety policies, maintain safety equipment, control damage to company equipment, perform monthly safety inspections and participate in quarterly reviews with the safety director. Supervisors can earn up to $500 per quarter by complying with the program.

By getting the frontline supervisors involved in safety, the contractor has seen a dramatic decrease in the number and severity of claims. As a result, the experience modifier dropped 33 percent in two years.

Best Use Of Safety Consulting

Despite the fact that there has been only one minor accident in 20 years for the maintenance department of this foundry, EMC continues to be a valuable resource for safety information.

Most recently, EMC provided an ergonomics training session to focus on safe lifting and posture. In addition, EMC advised the foundry to make safety part of its performance evaluations and to hold supervisors accountable for the actions of their employees. Ongoing recommendations like these will assure that this foundry continues its commitment to employee safety.

Best Use Of An Employee Taskforce

Working in conjunction with EMC, an employee task force at a community college developed safer and smarter ways to do everyday tasks.

  • To reach ceiling light bulbs, maintenance workers would set a ladder on top of a makeshift platform on a hydraulic lift. Not anymore.The college purchased a portable lift capable of reaching the ceiling in a much safer manner.
  • Because the handrails had to fold up like scissors, there was always a risk of injury when workers opened or closed bleachers. Now new handrails accordion fold into the bleachers, saving time and reducing injuries.

Best Use Of Safety Equipment

Many policyholders created or purchased equipment to help reduce the incidence of on-the-job injuries.

  • To reduce the likelihood of falls, a commercial glass contractor built an aerial basket for positioning heavy commercial glass panels. The basket features a removable short boom to support a suction cup device for holding the glass in place.
  • A roofing company uses a full perimeter handrail and several rooftop mobile fall protection devices to prevent deadly and costly falls.
  • To reduce tedious manual piece loading, a lumber company installed an automatic storage system for the bulk loading of stacked lumber bins.

Snow removal operational plans are commonplace for roads and parking lots, but have you ever considered having one available and ready to implement to remove snow from the roof of your building? This is especially important on large span buildings such as gymnasiums, warehouses, “big box” retail stores, and shopping centers. Each winter, roofs collapse because of excessive snow loads.

Snow removal is an inevitable part of winter.

Are you prepared for the safe and proper removal of snow from the roof of your building? Determining the building “safe snow load” is the first step in the development of a snow removal operational plan.

Know Your Building’s Snow Load

Determining your building’s design snow load may be as easy as reading it off the building plans or talking with the “designer of record.” On older buildings, it may require a structural engineer to determine the load. This load can then be used to establish a building’s “safe snow load.” Depending on the structure and building occupancy, the “safe snow load” could be 50 percent of the roof’s actual design snow load. Snow removal would be initiated once the actual snow load exceeds this amount.

Snow loads are measured in pounds per square foot (psf) and can range from 20 psf to over 70 psf. Fresh snow can range from 10 to 20 psf per foot depth. Snow that has partially thawed and refrozen can approach 40 to 60 psf per foot depth. Snow sampling procedures can be developed to measure and approximate the actual snow loads.

Watch for Early Warning Signs of Overloading

Sampling procedures are not the only way to detect excessive snow loads. Be on the watch for these warning signs:

  • Severe roof leaks, indicating torn roof membranes.
  • Ripples or bends in metal supports.
  • Loud popping noises emanating from the building structure.
  • Water ponds in areas where it never accumulated before.
  • Obvious deformities in the roof.

Ready? Set? Shovel!

Once it has been determined that the snow must be removed, the snow removal operational plan can be instituted. This is generally by a prearranged contract with a local roofing contractor. Snow removal is usually accomplished on a time and material basis, and can range from $0.40 to $0.60 per square foot. Specifically, the plan should address roof access and egress, edge fall protection and appropriate cold weather clothing.

Be Prepared

A snow removal plan can be developed and bid out just like roof maintenance or reroofing projects, providing you with confidence this winter when Mother Nature comes calling.

[This information is provided courtesy of Benchmark, Inc., a firm that partners with EMC Insurance Companies to provide roof investigations.]

Dos and Don’ts of Snow Removal Plans

  • Do remove drifted and unbalanced snow loads first.
  • Do remove snow and ice from drainage devices next.
  • Do remove snow in strip patterns, starting at the drainage device and proceeding up slope.
  • Do take precautions when removing snow at the base of curbs and walls.
  • Do protect and barricade areas where snow will be dumped or lowered.
  • Don’t use snow blowers.
  • Don’t stockpile snow on the roof.
  • Don’t use picks, hammers or other sharp tools to remove ice.
  • Don’t use hot water pressure washers to remove snow from the field of the roof.
  • Don’t block exit doors or fire exits with snow dumping or stockpiling.

Do you know how much it would cost to rebuild your facility in the event of a fire or other catastrophic event? Chances are you have a rough idea, but in the event of a total loss, you want something a bit better than a “rough” idea.

EMC uses some of the most sophisticated software available to prepare commercial property valuations. These valuations take into account such factors as overhead and profit, architect fees, construction details, inflation, reconstruction versus new construction costs and regional adjustments for cost of materials and labor.

Valuations should be completed on an annual basis. It is also important to adjust valuations whenever renovations or additions are made to a facility.

Count on EMC to help determine the accurate value of your property and your EMC agent to develop a comprehensive property insurance program that will allow you to recover from a catastrophic loss.

Workman with proper outdoor clothes

As the temperature begins to fall, on-the-job injuries begin to rise, especially when those jobs expose workers to sub zero conditions and plummeting wind-chill factors. Injuries resulting from exposure to cold temperatures include hypothermia, frostbite and frostnip, but it doesn't take state-of-the-art tools and processes to reduce the incidence and severity of these injuries. In most cases, it's making your employees aware of the proper clothes for cold weather working.

  1. Wear several layers of clothes. The first layer pulls moisture away from the skin. The middle layer provides needed insulation. The outer layer keeps workers protected from the elements.
  2. Always wear a hat. As much as 70 percent or more of the body's heat can be lost from an uncovered head.
  3. Wearing a scarf or face mask is the best deterrent to frostbite injuries to the nose and ears.
  4. Donning insulated gloves and socks can help prevent frostbite injuries to fingers and toes.
  5. Avoid wearing wet clothing, shoes or socks. Change wet clothing as soon as possible.
  6. Drink plenty of liquids. Caffeinated beverages should be avoided as they may contribute to heat loss.

In addition to proper clothing, EMC loss control specialists recommend that employees be trained to identify the signs of cold weather injuries and understand the proper treatment of such injuries.

Injury

Symptoms

Treatment

FrostNip

Numb and white skin, firm to the touch. The affected area may peel or blister in 24 to 72 hours and may be permanently sensitive to cold.

Rewarm affected area by applying steady pressure with a warm hand and breathing into a cupped hand on the injured site. Do not rub the affected area. A frostnipped hand also can be placed under the armpit.

FrostBite

Tingling, numbness and pain in the affected area. White or gray skin that is cold and hard to the touch. The skin may blacken and form a tough layer that eventually disappears, revealing new skin.

Seek professional assistance immediately. If assistance is not available, rewarm the victim in warm bath water (105?F optimally). Give the victim warm, non-alcoholic fluids.  Wash the affected area with soap and water. When color returns, wrap the area in sterile gauze or a clean cloth. Elevate the affected part after rewarming to decrease swelling and pain. Rewarming at the location is not recommended if medical assistance is available within two hours.

Hypothermia

Slurred speech, decreased coordination, uncontrollable shivering, cold and pale skin, blue lips and nails, stumbling, abnormally slow breathing and a slow irregular heart beat.

Seek professional assistance immediately. Make sure clothing is dry and wrap the person in blankets. In mild cases, give the victim warm, non-alcoholic fluids and cover the head. Treatments for more severe cases vary with age.

Every year at this time, several thousand heating boilers begin a journey which will eventually take them to the heating boiler graveyard. According to inspectors at The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company, the leading cause of heating boiler failures is low water.

The trouble often starts with a leak which probably will not appear dramatic; it could be simply a damp spot on the floor. If the boiler’s safety devices are working properly, the small leak will cause problems over time and will require repair. However, if the safety devices are not working properly, serious problems are imminent.

The results of a boiler failure are repairs, replacement and possible new construction costs if an old heating boiler must be adapted to accommodate new equipment. These unnecessary costs can more than likely be avoided by strategic maintenance at start-up and throughout the season.

Before you start up your boiler this season, take the time to make certain everything is in working order. A checklist developed by The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company provides valuable guidance in this area. Ask your EMC agent for a copy of the Heating Boiler Start-up Checklist or visit www.hsb.com.

Windshield Washer Fluid Label

It seemed like a perfectly safe thing to do — use an acetylene torch to cut an empty 55-gallon metal drum marked “windshield washer solvent.” After all, most people think windshield washer fluid is safe. Unfortunately, it is a flammable substance and the flame from the acetylene torch ignited vapors, causing the drum to explode.

Be aware that windshield washer solution contains water, detergent and, to keep it from freezing, methyl alcohol or methanol, (often 20 percent or more). The methanol makes the solution very flammable and for waste disposal purposes is considered hazardous waste.

As of January 1, 2003, the adopted and filed rules regarding flammable and combustible liquids became law in many states.  According to that law, “Persons who install, service, test or maintain gas utilization equipment, or gas piping systems of which the equipment is a part, or accessories, shall be trained in the proper procedures in accordance with applicable gas codes.” Training needs to be a Certified Employee Training Program or an equivalent and must be updated every three years. Contact your state's gas association for training sessions in your area.

HEDGE TRIMMERS RECALL

Shindaiwa, Inc. has recalled 59,200 Professional Hedge Trimmers. The fuel cap on these trimmers can leak, posing a fire hazard. Defective caps can be returned to Shindaiwa dealers for a replacement cap. For more details, call 800-521-7733.

WORKPLACE FIRST AID KITS

The International Safety Equipment Association has issued an updated version of ANSI Z308.1-2003, Minimum Requirements for Workplace First Aid Kits. Visit www.safetyequipment.org for complete details.

ONLINE LOSS PREVENTION MANUAL UPDATE

The Lockout/Tagout section of EMC’s online Loss Prevention Information Manual has been updated. To review this latest update, click on Policyholder Information & Resources.

Local Governments

With recent budget cuts, local governments are faced with many competing needs. You need to make decisions about what stays in the budget and what gets postponed. With over 19,000 bleacher related accidents each year (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission), facilities with bleachers must seriously consider keeping their indoor and outdoor bleachers inspected and maintained on an annual basis, despite pressures to spend capital elsewhere. B&R Erectors, a company with more than 30 years of bleacher experience, offers the following tips.

The average seating capacity in gyms is 1,500 seats. That equates to approximately 214,500 pounds or 107 tons of live load on your bleacher system at any given moment!

Bleacher Safety Starts With Ongoing Inspections

An annual bleacher system inspection by a qualified bleacher service firm is crucial to the safety of your spectators. You should be provided with documentation after the inspection that should include photos, a summary, and solutions to any maintenance and safety enhancement needs.

Bleacher safety should not stop with the inspection. Train the people responsible for operating your bleachers to know what to look for when opening and closing the bleachers. In addition, in-house quarterly inspections should include:

  • Inspecting the surface structure row by row for damage and/or cracks.
  • Noting any loose or missing hardware on the surface structure and all safety features (i.e., rails, tables and platforms) attached to the bleachers.
  • Making certain all gaps and open spaces are four inches or less.
  • Checking all floor and wall anchors.
  • Noting any bent or missing brackets, fasteners or understructure components.
  • Checking that all wheels are in place.
  • Verifying that any power systems are in good operational status.

Consistent Maintenance Prevents Accidents and Saves You Money

The old saying, “If it's not broke, don't fix it,” is not the right approach for bleachers. Your fans trust the structure on which they are sitting. Don't wait until something is broken to fix it. Stay on a consistent maintenance plan, so you’ll always be ready for the next big event. Repairing minor problems will also help avoid the major expense of replacing sections or entire systems.

TOP SIX Potential Bleacher Hazards

  1. No end rails.
  2. End rails with gaps greater than four inches.
  3. Bleacher board damaged and splintering.
  4. Climbable, open aisle way in bleacher system in closed position (the ladder effect).
  5. Bleacher understructure is twisted and inoperable.
  6. Bleacher operates unevenly and/or does not fully open.
Bleachers that are too wide Badly splintered wooden bleacher Bent Bleacher Support
Hazard 2 Hazard 3 Hazard 5

Petroleum Marketers

Defensive drivers should be familiar with the phrase, “Expect the unexpected.” While sage drivers strive to live up to this challenge, all too often the “unexpected” may be a minor inconvenience or distraction.

Members of the Virginia State Police conducted a study in 2002 in which they collected data on 2,700 crashes over a six-month period. The researchers were surprised to find that of the crashes they recorded, 98 percent involved a single distracted driver. This is one of the largest studies to date focusing on distracted drivers and crashes.

One well-known culprit is the cellular phone. Cell phone use while driving has garnered significant public attention in recent years. We all have followed a driver who was deeply involved in a cell phone conversation whose vehicle wandered in and out of its lane at varying speeds. However, in the Virginia study, cell phone use, surprisingly, was not first on the list, but actually ranked sixth!

In the study, participating Virginia State Police officers inquired as to what drivers were doing just prior to the crash. The drivers’ answers then were grouped and tabulated into a ranking.

Overall, almost 65 percent of the reported distractions in these crashes originated inside the vehicle. Distractions from outside the vehicle accounted for 35 percent. Approximately two-thirds of the crashes examined in this study occurred in rural areas. Other distractions reported in rural areas include insects striking or entering the vehicle and unrestrained pets in the vehicle.

Activity

% of Total Responses

Rubbernecking 16 percent
Driver fatigue 12 percent
Looking at scenery 10 percent
Distracted by passenger 9 percent
Adjusting the radio 7 percent
Cell Phone Use 5 percent

In urban areas, crashes most often resulted from drivers rubbernecking while looking at other crashes, becoming distracted by other traffic or vehicles or distracted by cell phone use.

For the defensive driver, “Expect the unexpected” remains the golden rule. An addendum to that should be, “Don’t let the unexpected become a distraction.” A distracted driver can be a crash waiting to happen. That is why the National Safety Council encourages you to tell your drivers, “Stay alert and focused.”

Schools

With recent budget cuts, local governments are faced with many competing needs. You need to make decisions about what stays in the budget and what gets postponed. With over 19,000 bleacher related accidents each year (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission), facilities with bleachers must seriously consider keeping their indoor and outdoor bleachers inspected and maintained on an annual basis, despite pressures to spend capital elsewhere. B&R Erectors, a company with more than 30 years of bleacher experience, offers the following tips.

The average seating capacity in gyms is 1,500 seats. That equates to approximately 214,500 pounds or 107 tons of live load on your bleacher system at any given moment!

Bleacher Safety Starts With Ongoing Inspections

An annual bleacher system inspection by a qualified bleacher service firm is crucial to the safety of your spectators. You should be provided with documentation after the inspection that should include photos, a summary, and solutions to any maintenance and safety enhancement needs.

Bleacher safety should not stop with the inspection. Train the people responsible for operating your bleachers to know what to look for when opening and closing the bleachers. In addition, in-house quarterly inspections should include:

  • Inspecting the surface structure row by row for damage and/or cracks.
  • Noting any loose or missing hardware on the surface structure and all safety features (i.e., rails, tables and platforms) attached to the bleachers.
  • Making certain all gaps and open spaces are four inches or less.
  • Checking all floor and wall anchors.
  • Noting any bent or missing brackets, fasteners or understructure components.
  • Checking that all wheels are in place.
  • Verifying that any power systems are in good operational status.

Consistent Maintenance Prevents Accidents and Saves You Money

The old saying, “If it's not broke, don't fix it,” is not the right approach for bleachers. Your fans trust the structure on which they are sitting. Don't wait until something is broken to fix it. Stay on a consistent maintenance plan, so you’ll always be ready for the next big event. Repairing minor problems will also help avoid the major expense of replacing sections or entire systems.

TOP SIX Potential Bleacher Hazards

  1. No end rails.
  2. End rails with gaps greater than four inches.
  3. Bleacher board damaged and splintering.
  4. Climbable, open aisle way in bleacher system in closed position (the ladder effect).
  5. Bleacher understructure is twisted and inoperable.
  6. Bleacher operates unevenly and/or does not fully open.
Bleachers that are too wide Badly splintered wooden bleacher Bent Bleacher Support
Hazard 2 Hazard 3 Hazard 5

Some school districts looking to add classroom space without adding the expense of building new facilities are looking to their basements as a potential solution. But as one Iowa school discovered, that may not be a very safe solution.

School Classroom

According to Monte Ball, EMC Consulting Services Manager, the school began experiencing a higher incidence of headaches and sinus problems after relocating a classroom to a basement. The culprit was mold. “Beyond potential mold problems, there is also the issue of fire safety when using basements,” adds Ball. “State fire codes are very specific about basement classrooms.”

EMC’s loss control specialists are available to help schools review fire codes and evaluate air quality. For assistance, call your EMC agent.

Winter 2003