Fall 2004 Volume 25

Feature Articles

According to research from the National Safety Council, approximately 15 percent of all accidental deaths are due to injuries sustained from a fall, with approximately 12,000 lives lost annually. In order to reduce the risk of slip, trip and fall injuries, business owners should frequently inspect their sidewalks, parking lots and other interior and exterior walkways for hazards and make repairs as soon as possible.

Regular sidewalk inspections increase the chances that problems are discovered, documented, and repaired as soon as possible. Inspections should be performed at least annually, but should be more frequent near schools, business districts, and other high-traffic areas frequently used by the public. Inspections can be performed by in-house personnel such as the facility manager or maintenance department or can be completed by a loss control specialist or concrete repair vendor. It is important that the records of surveys be maintained in the event an injury occurs on the property.

Items that should be documented in walkway inspections include:

  • Vertical displacement and/or settlement 1/2 inch or greater.
  • Cracks 1/2 inch across or greater.
  • Significant portions of the surface chipped away.
  • Holes or potholes greater than one inch in diameter.
  • Chunks of loose concrete or slabs that move or wobble.
  • Fences, signs, vending machines, etc., partially blocking the path.
  • Utility plugs and valves that protrude 1/2 inch or more above the surface.
  • Low hanging tree limbs, bushes, weeds, or other plants growing into the sidewalk and/or posing an obstruction.
  • Wet leaves, rock, sand, dirt, or other debris accumulating on the sidewalk.
  • Areas of pooling water that may become patches of ice during freezing weather.
  • Any other situation that creates the potential for a slip, trip, or fall.

In addition to inspecting sidewalks, it is also a good idea to inspect parking lots, alleys, patios, stairs, and other areas of pedestrian traffic for the same types of hazards stated above. All inspections should be documented with the name of the inspector, date of the inspection, areas that were inspected, any problems that were noted, and a timeline for repairs.

For additional information, EMC loss control specialists suggest the following websites:

  • Americans with Disabilities Act at www.ada.org.
  • Georgia Department of Transportation at www.gov.state.ga.us/DOT/plan-prog/planning/projects/bicycle/ped_facilities_guide/5_sidewalks_and_walkways.pdf

Click on Image to see larger version  chart

There are various national organizations committed to keeping Americans safe at home and at work. Many have identified specific weeks or months of the year to bring attention to their cause. Visit the websites listed below for additional information and materials to help spread valuable safety information to your employees and customers.

September 19-25, 2004
Farm Safety and Health Week

October 3-9, 2004
Fire Prevention Week
www.firepreventionweek.org

October 11-17, 2004
Shopping Cart Safety Week
www.safestrap.com

October 17-23, 2004
School Bus Safety Week
http://naptonline.org/

December 1-31, 2004
Drunk & Drugged Driving Prevention Month
www.nhtsa.dot.gov/

In recent years, companies have been sued for traffic accidents in which a manager or another employee was using a company-issued cell phone at the time of the accident. Now some lawsuits have raised the possibility that companies may be targeted in automobile personal injury cases when employees are driving while sleepy.

You should be careful that your organization's scheduling or compensation schemes don't create employee work situations that lead to extreme fatigue. The greatest concern would be to companies that operate outside a standard 9-to-5 workday. Even public sector agencies can be vulnerable when their employees are exposed to longer work shifts.

Material handling related injuries such as back, arm, or shoulder overexertions, and trip and fall accidents can significantly increase workers’ compensation expenses. EMC can assist you in reducing these costs through proven engineering techniques.

From analyzing a single work station to an entire plant, the goal of EMC’s facility planning is simple -- to look for ways to reduce claims by reducing the amount of material handling. EMC's experience indicates that taking these actions will also result in greater productivity, more efficient operations, and increased profits.

Whether you’re in the early stages of designing a facility or looking for ways to make your existing facility safer and more efficient, Count on EMC for facility planning and material handling analysis tailored to your specific needs.

Human Eye

According to OSHA, Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) is a repetitive strain disorder that appears to be growing rapidly. Some studies estimate that 90 percent of the 70 million U.S. workers using computers for more than three hours per day experience CVS in some form. For workers who spend most of their day in front of a computer screen, several key factors can cause eyes to work harder than necessary. Here are some basic tips for minimizing eye strain and maintaining vision courtesy of 3M.

  • Get regular eye exams, and wear corrective lenses if necessary. (Be sure to tell your eye specialist that you use a computer at work.)
  • Add an AOA-approved anti-glare computer filter to your monitor.
  • Blink frequently to help keep eyes moist, particularly if you wear contact lenses.
  • Occasionally cup your hands over closed eyes for 30 to 60 seconds and take deep, slow breaths to relax.
  • Adjust your monitor distance. Position your monitor at least 18 inches from your eyes.
  • Adjust monitor angle to reduce reflective glare. Straight up and down is best. Use document holders that attach to the sides of the monitor, and angle them accordingly.
  • Adjust your monitor height. A good guideline is to arrange the monitor so that when sitting relaxed, you can look over the top of the monitor.
  • Use polarizing task lights to light your tasks, not your computer monitor.
  • If feasible, install lower-watt overhead light bulbs or polarizing light filters to reduce room lighting levels.
  • Relocate your computer monitor from in front of windows and bright light sources.
  • Use drapes, shades and blinds.
  • Clean the screen. Staring through dust, dirt and fingerprints on your computer screen makes the image more difficult to see.

[These tips originally appeared in Occupational Health & Safety News, one of several print newsletters offered by Stevens Publishing, Dallas, TX ]

RESPIRATORY PROTECTION RULE ENFORCEMENT UPDATE
OSHA lifted the temporary suspension of enforcing new provisions of the respiratory protection standard for establishments providing respirators for exposure to tuberculosis. For details, visit www.osha.gov.

ERGONOMIC GUIDELINES FOR RETAIL GROCERY
After more than a year of research, discussions, and revisions, OSHA issued its ergonomics guideline for the retail grocery store industry in late May. For details, visit www.osha.gov.

NEW SAFETY PERMIT MANDATED FOR SOME HAZMAT CARRIERS
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will make the 3,100 trucking companies that haul certain hazardous materials obtain a special safety permit beginning January 1, 2005. The safety permit will be required for carriers hauling certain types and amounts of hazardous materials. The final rule says that carriers must meet all federal safety and security standards and must communicate regularly with their drivers by phone or another electronic device. The final rule is available online at www.fmcsa.dot.gov.

TRUCK HOURS OF SERVICE RULES OVERTURNED
New government rules extending the amount of time that commercial truckers can drive between breaks was overturned by federal court on July 16. The rules, which went into effect on January 4, 2004, increased the number of hours of service that govern actual driving time for truck drivers. For additional information on how these changes affect you, visit www.fmcsa.dot.gov.

Contractors

Man on Ladder

A puddle. An unmarked opening in a floor. A stray tool. Uneven floors. These are all signs of falls, slips and trips waiting to happen. According to OSHA, each year, falls consistently account for the greatest number of fatalities in the construction industry. The checklist below was prepared by Linda F. Johnson, a former technical editor of Occupational Health & Safety, and provided to you by EMC Insurance Companies courtesy of Stevens Publishing, Dallas, TX.

Checklist for Preventing Falls

  • Is management actively committed to provided a safe work site?
  • Is the site inspected daily or more often for housekeeping problems that may cause a fall from elevation or a same-level fall?
  • Are spills cleaned up immediately?
  • Are walkways kept clear and free of stored materials?
  • Are all tools stored properly at the end of each shift?
  • Is a safe clearance for material handling equipment provided through aisles and doorways?
  • Are openings in outside walls adequately barricaded and labeled before any work begins in the area?
  • Are employees prohibited from sitting on ledges of openings?
  • Are all floor openings identified with appropriate signage and covered or barricaded prior to worker exposure to the area?
  • Have all employees been advised about how to report unsafe conditions at the site? Do they know who to contact in such cases?
  • Do employees wear appropriate safety footwear for the floor conditions?
  • Is damaged or defective footwear replaced or repaired?
  • Is the level of lighting adequate for safe employee movement and for the work being performed?
  • Are temporary hand railings checked for protruding nails and splinters?
  • Are changes in elevation, such as joints, labeled to prevent falls?
  • Are covers or guardrails in place and marked around open trenches, pits, tanks or other surface interruptions?
  • Are ladderways and other unfinished wall openings guarded by a railing?
  • Are plans in place for fencing and barricading the work site from public use and vehicular traffic?
  • Do workers or subcontractors who use scaffolding use a competent person for its setup, use and removal?
  • Are adequate cleanup supplies and absorbents available for spills?
  • Are emergency numbers posted?
Worker

According to the National Research Council, the construction industry has the second highest Latino fatality rate. Only the mining industry is higher. It is also the industry with the most non-fatal injuries for Latinos. What can you do to reduce the likelihood of injury among your Latino workers? A recent article by Fernando Vazques and C. Keith Stalnaker that appeared in Professional Safety magazine offers the following suggestions.

  • Provide safety and health training in Spanish. When possible, have a Latino conduct the training.
  • Provide relevant and linguistically appropriate safety information and materials that address specific workplace hazards.
  • Be judicious about the safety training offered. Do not provide training that will not be needed on the job.
  • Maintain a low student-to-trainer ratio.
  • Revamp training programs to be culturally sensitive. Do not assume that Spanish-speaking employees understand training unless demonstrated.
  • Provide financial and other support to encourage Latinos to continue their education.
  • Conduct on-the-job safety meetings and job briefings in Spanish if Latino workers do not understand English.
  • Convince Latinos that it is not acceptable to be injured on the job and that completing a job is not as important as completing it safely.

The following websites may be of value to you in training Latino workers about safety:

  • The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division website has English-to-Spanish and Spanish-to-English dictionaries of occupational safety and health terms (www.orosha.org/pdf/dictionary/spanish-english.pdf)
  • The NIOSH en Espanol website (www.cdc.gov/spanish/niosh/) provides translations of select NIOSH publications and links to other Spanish-language materials on occupational safety and health.
  • EMC’s Video Lending Library has a limited number of safety videos available in Spanish.

Petroleum Marketers

There’s no question that developing a safety program for your organization is a key to reducing the frequency and severity of workplace accidents. But where do you start? How can you create a plan that works for you and your specific situation? University of Illinois Risk Manager Mark Briggs, CSP, (contact at 217 840 0235) offered the following advice to members of the Iowa-Illinois Safety Council. We’re pleased to share his professional counsel with readers of Loss Control Insights.

Step 1: Assessment of needs — Ask yourself why you want or need a safety program? To reduce workers' compensation insurance costs? To improve employee retention?
Step 2: Establish goals — Determine employee goals and outline responsibilities to achieve those goals. Establish some type of accountability for your program, such as tying promotions and merit increases to involvement and support of your safety efforts.
Step 3: Form a safety committee — Include people from production, senior management, risk management, production management, human resources, maintenance, etc. Clearly define the mission, goals, and duties of the committee and its members.
Step 4: Determine management's commitment — Your safety program must have the support of senior management. Make senior management a visible part of the process and keep them informed every step along the way.
Step 5: Establish employee involvement — Involve employees at all levels from the beginning of the process through its implementation and maintenance.
Step 6: Develop policies and procedures — Review existing policies and procedures to determine the need for any changes. Make certain that effective disciplinary and positive reinforcement procedures for employees and supervisors are in place as well.
Step 7: Provide training for supervisory and production personnel — Training should include a means of ensuring comprehension and retention of information presented.
Step 8: Conduct worksite analysis — Complete a baseline audit of physical conditions. Perform safety analysis for all operations. Analyze new facilities, processes, and equipment. Most importantly, provide a system for employee reporting.
Step 9: Ongoing correction of unsafe conditions — Implement programs to identify safety and health deficiencies and to deal with these problem areas.
Step 10: Accident investigation — Develop an accident investigation team that can assist in analyzing trends to determine the root cause(s) of recurring incidents.
Clock

Many things have changed in the motor carrier industry since 1939 when the original hours-of-service (HOS) regulations were prescribed for truck drivers. Our roads are better designed, constructed, and maintained in a nationwide network to provide greater mobility, accessibility, and safety for all highway users. Vehicles have been dramatically improved in terms of design, construction, safety, comfort, efficiency, emissions, technology, and ergonomics. These factors, combined with years of driver fatigue and sleep disorder research, led to a January 2004 revision of the HOS regulations for drivers, the most important component of trucks operating on the highway.

A July 16 court decision, however, has overturned the recent Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) hours-of-service rule. The rules allowed truckers to stay on the road for up to 11 straight hours, one more hour than they had been allowed. In addition, it required drivers to take at least 10 hours off between shifts, two more than before. According to the court ruling, “FMCSA failed to consider the impact of the rules on the health of drivers.” Teamsters General President, Jim Hoffa, claimed that the court’s decision to overturn the hours-of-service ruling was a victory for all truck drivers. “Working behind the wheel of a truck is hard, and our concern with this set of rules was that they would increase driver fatigue. We know fatigue creates danger on the highways.”

FMCSA has 45 days from the date of the court decision (July 16, 2004) to decide whether to seek other legal action. However, during that period the hours-of-service regulations put into place in January 2004 will remain in effect. We’ll continue to update you on this issue in future editions of Loss Control Insights.

Schools

School Kids

Advancement Project recently released, Derailed: The Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track, a first-of-its-kind report that looks at how zero-tolerance policies are derailing students from an academic track in schools to a future in the juvenile justice system. According to the report, in the mid 1980s, a spike in juvenile crime rates gave birth to the “superpredator” theory which held that America was under assault by a generation of brutally amoral young people, and that only the abandonment of “soft” educational and rehabilitative approaches, in favor of strict and unrelenting discipline — a zero-tolerance approach — could end the plague.

“In school district after school district, an inflexible and unthinking zero- tolerance approach to an exaggerated juvenile crime problem is derailing the educational process,” said Judith Browne, Advancement Project senior attorney. “The educational system is starting to look more like the criminal justice system. Acts once handled by a principal or a parent are now being handled by prosecutors and the police.”

The report, which looked at data from school systems across the country, finds that creation of the schoolhouse to jailhouse track has damaged a generation of children by: criminalizing trivial offenses and pushing children out of the school system and into the juvenile justice system, making them less likely to graduate and more likely to end up back in the juvenile or criminal system; and, turning schools into prison-like “secure environments,” replete with drug-sniffing dogs, metal detectors, and uniformed law enforcement personnel, which lowers morale and makes learning more difficult.

The report documented dramatic spikes in student arrests in some places. Across the board, a common thread exists, that a majority of these arrests are for minor offenses such as disorderly conduct, “miscellaneous,” and simple assaults, previously handled by schools and parents.

The following examples illustrate the extreme reaction to minor offenses that are causing a growing number of students to be derailed into the juvenile justice system.

  • In Florida, a student was arrested and charged with “throwing a deadly missile” for having an egg in his pocket on Halloween.
  • In Mississippi, elementary school students have been arrested and taken to the local jail for talking during assembly.
  • In California, two 12-year-old best friends had an argument; one later threatened to beat up the other. She was arrested and charged with making “criminal threats.” This 6th grader was detained at juvenile hall and referred to juvenile court on the charge.
  • In New Jersey, two elementary school boys were arrested and charged with terrorism for playing cops and robbers with paper guns.

“Students, who engage in truly criminal behavior such as murder, serious violence, or the sale or possession of illicit drugs, should be subjected to criminal charges as they were even before zero tolerance became the watchword,” continued Browne. “However, students should not be deprived of an education and a future by being derailed into the juvenile justice system for minor acts.”

Statistics show that youth violence has declined and that schools remain the safest places for children. From 1997 to 2000, nonfatal crimes against students dropped by 44 percent. For the same period serious violent crimes (rape, sexual assault, robbery or aggravated assault) declined 43 percent.

“Laws must be changed through statutory fixes and, if necessary, litigation to reduce the number of petty cases that schools refer to the juvenile justice system to ensure that students’ rights are protected,” concluded Browne. “As policymakers attempt to 'Leave No Child Behind,' reducing the criminalization of students by their schools should be a top priority.”

Advancement Project is a policy and legal action organization that creates strategies for achieving universal opportunity and a racially just democracy. For more information or to obtain a copy of the study, please visit their website at www.advancementproject.org.

Fire

Here’s a true story to remind you that often times it’s the little things that could cause the biggest safety problem.

Not long ago EMC completed a survey on a school in Wisconsin. The report came back very positive, noting that this particular school appeared to have an excellent facility. It had implemented numerous procedures and policies to ensure the safety of its buildings and students. Despite its best efforts, the school suffered a multi-million dollar fire loss.

How did an “excellent insured” suffer such a catastrophic loss? A faulty electrical strip outlet. A short in the outlet lead to a fire which caused a total loss in two classrooms and significant smoke and water damage to the remainder of the facility.

The moral of the story — be constantly aware of potential hazards. It may be a faulty outlet or switch. It may be an unattended spill in the chemistry lab. It may be an icy sidewalk. Despite how effective your safety program is, there are numerous “little things” we can't predict in our surveys. We encourage all insureds to take the time to constantly monitor your facility for situations that could lead to losses.

Local Governments

There’s no question that developing a safety program for your organization is a key to reducing the frequency and severity of workplace accidents. But where do you start? How can you create a plan that works for you and your specific situation? University of Illinois Risk Manager Mark Briggs, CSP, (contact at 217 840 0235) offered the following advice to members of the Iowa-Illinois Safety Council. We’re pleased to share his professional counsel with readers of Loss Control Insights.

Step 1: Assessment of needs — Ask yourself why you want or need a safety program? To reduce workers' compensation insurance costs? To improve employee retention?
Step 2: Establish goals — Determine employee goals and outline responsibilities to achieve those goals. Establish some type of accountability for your program, such as tying promotions and merit increases to involvement and support of your safety efforts.
Step 3: Form a safety committee — Include people from production, senior management, risk management, production management, human resources, maintenance, etc. Clearly define the mission, goals, and duties of the committee and its members.
Step 4: Determine management's commitment — Your safety program must have the support of senior management. Make senior management a visible part of the process and keep them informed every step along the way.
Step 5: Establish employee involvement — Involve employees at all levels from the beginning of the process through its implementation and maintenance.
Step 6: Develop policies and procedures — Review existing policies and procedures to determine the need for any changes. Make certain that effective disciplinary and positive reinforcement procedures for employees and supervisors are in place as well.
Step 7: Provide training for supervisory and production personnel — Training should include a means of ensuring comprehension and retention of information presented.
Step 8: Conduct worksite analysis — Complete a baseline audit of physical conditions. Perform safety analysis for all operations. Analyze new facilities, processes, and equipment. Most importantly, provide a system for employee reporting.
Step 9: Ongoing correction of unsafe conditions — Implement programs to identify safety and health deficiencies and to deal with these problem areas.
Step 10: Accident investigation — Develop an accident investigation team that can assist in analyzing trends to determine the root cause(s) of recurring incidents.
Water Faucet

Local drinking water and wastewater systems may be targets for terrorists and other would-be criminals wishing to disrupt and cause harm to your community. The Environmental Protection Agency urges you to examine your operations and identify needed improvements in security and emergency preparedness. Here are some things you can do to protect your water system from contamination and other harm.

  • Prepare or update an emergency response plan. Make sure all employees help to create it and receive training on the plan.
  • Post updated 24-hour emergency numbers in highly visible areas and give them to key personnel and local response officials.
  • Get to know your local police and ask them to add your facilities to their routine rounds.
  • Fence and lock your drinking water facilities and vulnerable areas.
  • Install good lighting around your pump house, treatment facility, and parking lot.
  • Identify existing and alternate water supplies and maximize use of backflow prevention devices and interconnections.
  • Use your Source Water Assessment information to work with any businesses and homeowners that are listed as potential sources of contamination.
  • Lock monitoring wells to prevent vandals or terrorists from pouring contaminants directly into ground water near your source.
  • In case of emergency, first call “911” then follow your emergency response plan.

For more information on water security, we suggest you visit http://water.epa.gov/infrastructure/watersecurity/index.cfm.

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Fall 2004