Summer 2009 Volume 44

Feature Articles

hammock

One day, he’s assisting local governments with safety training for lifeguards. The next day, he’s advising businesses on what types of jobs young adults can legally perform. Then, he’s off to a school to talk to the custodial staff about safe landscaping practices.

Summer is a busy month for EMC Senior Risk Improvement Representative Bruce Carlson, but for very good reason. “With the hot weather and increase in outdoor work-related activities comes a potential increase in workplace injuries and fatalities,” explains Bruce. EMC loss control experts like Bruce have access to the information and resources to help reduce the likelihood of these losses.

“Beyond the hazards associated with specific summer jobs, heat illness (including heat stroke, heat exhaustion, cramps and fatigue) is a prevalent issue for outdoor workers,” warns Bruce. Regardless of the type of business, if you have employees working outdoors during the summer, Bruce recommends you adhere to the following 10 safety tips from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration:

1. Encourage workers to drink plenty of water —about a cup of cool water every 15 to 20 minutes, even if they are not thirsty.

2. Help workers adjust to the heat by assigning a lighter workload and longer rest periods for the first 5 to 7 days of intense heat.

3. Encourage workers to wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

4. Use general ventilation and spot cooling at points of high heat production.

5. Train first-aid workers to recognize and treat the signs of heat stress. Also, train supervisors to detect early signs of heat-related illness and permit workers to interrupt their work if they become extremely uncomfortable.

6. Consider a worker’s physical condition when determining his/her fitness to work in hot environments. Obesity, lack of conditioning, pregnancy and inadequate rest can increase susceptibility to heat stress.

7. Alternate work and rest periods, with rest periods in a cooler area. Shorter, more frequent work-rest cycles are best.

8. Schedule heavy work for cooler times of the day and use appropriate protective clothing.

9. Monitor temperatures, humidity and workers’ responses to heat at least hourly.

10. Postpone nonessential tasks for other times of the year.

Emphasizing safety is important all year long, but perhaps even more important in the summer with seasonal and teen workers entering the workforce. “So don’t let safety take a summer vacation,” stresses Bruce.

Click YouTube for Fire Safety
The Fire Equipment Manufacturers’ Association developed a two-minute video to train your employees on the proper use of a portable fire extinguisher. It’s available at youtube.com/watch?v=BLjoWjCrDqg.

New Website for Hand Tool Safety
In preparation for National Hand Tool Month in May, the Hand Tools Institute has updated its website (hti.org) with a number of articles on the safe use of hand tools. The new site also provides a safety quiz and information on how to select the correct tool for the job.

Can "Horseplay" Injuries Be Work-related?
Yes, according to a recent letter of interpretation from OSHA regarding an altercation between two workers in a construction trailer. Keith Goddard, director of OSHA’s Directorate of Evaluation and Analysis, noted that, assuming the workers were in the trailer as a condition of their employment, the injury resulted from an event occurring in the work environment and was thus work-related.

'Tis the Season for Lightning and Water Damage
It’s that time of the year again and the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety wants you to be prepared. Their current Disaster Safety Monthly newsletter features some valuable information on how commercial property owners can reduce the severity of lightning and water damage during normal and crisis times.

For more information, visit emcinsurance.com.

Teen workers learn valuable skills during their summer jobs. Among other things, they learn how to prioritize tasks, how to work with others and how to accept responsibilities. But one more valuable skill you can help them learn is on-the-job safety.

In 2006, 30 youth under the age of 18 died from work-related injuries, according to a study by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. An estimated 52,600 work-related injuries and illnesses among youth under the age of 18 were treated in hospital emergency rooms.

What can you do to help teen workers enjoy a productive and safe summer working for your organization? OSHA recommends implementing the following:

  • Review the worksite to eliminate identified hazards and ensure jobs are as safe as possible.
  • Provide appropriate training to teach teens to recognize hazards and to be competent in safe work practices.
  • Assign supervisors to help teens recognize hazards and use safe work practices.
  • Verify that teens routinely recognize hazards and use safe work practices.
  • Stress safety, particularly among first-line supervisors; they have the greatest opportunity to influence teens and their work habits.
  • Implement a mentoring or buddy system for new teen workers.
  • Encourage teens to ask questions.
  • Ensure that equipment operated by teens is both legal and safe for them to use.
  • Develop a drug-free workplace program.

For more information on keeping teen workers safe this summer, visit http://www.osha.gov/youngworkers/. And Count on EMC® for safety signs, videos and other loss control materials that will make work a positive experience for you, your workers and customers.

AC Workers

Will your air conditioning system be ready for action this coming season? You may never know until you throw the switch, but taking the proper steps prior to start-up can help detect potential problems. With the assistance of Hartford Steam Boiler (HSB), EMC has the resources and information you need to keep you cool all season long.

Hartford Steam Boiler's Webinar Series

Hartford Steam Boiler’s 2009 Equipment Webinar Series covers boilers, air conditioning, and electrical equipment. This series is being offered free of charge by HSB in cooperation with EMC Insurance Companies. Register now for as many sessions as you want. For more information, visit https://www.hsb.com/HSBGroup/Videos.aspx.

According to HSB, many failures take place at start-up or early in the cooling season because of inoperative controls or safety devices. However, most of these accidents can be prevented if a little more attention is paid to readying the equipment for service.

Count on EMC® to provide valuable loss prevention information and help reduce losses related to this equipment exposure.

Other Topics

Bruce Carlson

From seasonal workers to hot weather, bee stings to outdoor equipment, the summer months present numerous occupational safety and health challenges for your employees. EMC Risk Improvement Representative Bruce Carlson recommends the following resources, available to EMC policyholders in the Loss Control section at emcinsurance.com:

[Editor’s Note: Based on the latest studies regarding the impact of a sagging economy on the rise in fraudulent claims, we thought it would be appropriate to rerun this article that appeared in the Fall 2008 issue of Loss Control Insights.]

Who pays the price for fraudulent workers’ compensation claims? We all do. They not only lead to higher insurance premiums, but they translate into higher prices for goods and services because of production delays, retraining costs and equipment replacement purchases.

Handcuffs

Workers’ compensation claimant fraud and medical fraud are significant contributors to our nation’s annual $30 billion insurance fraud problem. According to EMC Special Investigative Unit Manager Laurie Salz, these crimes range from people who fake an injury while on the job in order to collect workers’ compensation insurance, to organized criminal conspiracies by unethical physicians, attorneys and patients who submit false and exaggerated medical claims.

“Through our Partnership Against Insurance Crime program, EMC is leveraging the resources of policyholders, agents and our staff to deal head-on with the issues relating to all forms of insurance crime,” comments Salz. “As an employer, you are in a particularly advantageous position to help in the fight.”

Prescreen Potential Employees
Although the presence of several of the following conditions does not mean a potential or current employee is likely to be involved in a fraudulent claim, be aware of these red flags:

  • Substantial material misrepresentation on the employment application
  • Bad references
  • Positive drug test results
  • Criminal record
  • Unverified Social Security number
  • Nomadic with a history of short-term employment and financial difficulties

Watch For Warning Signs
While the following indicators are not proof of fraud, they are some conditions to watch for:

  • Employee warning signs — disgruntled, soon-to-retire or facing imminent firing or layoff; takes more time off than the claimed injury seems to warrant; changes physicians when a release for work has been issued; demands quick settlement payment
  • Accident warning signs — occurs at an odd hour; details are vague and contradictory; not promptly reported by the employee to the supervisor; no witnesses

Report Fraudulent Workers’ Compensation Claims
Once you believe you have detected workers’ compensation fraud, contact your local EMC branch office claims department or EMC’s Special Investigative Unit as soon as possible. Remember, only discuss the issue with EMC personnel and refer any other inquiries on the matter to the branch office or EMC’s Special Investigative Unit.

EMC’s Partnership Against Insurance Crime program

Go Online For Loss Control Information
Since 1926, EMC Insurance Companies has provided policyholders with expert evaluation, technical expertise and effective loss control solutions. Today, many of the services provided by our loss control team are available in the Loss Control pages of emcins.com.

Tech Sheets
Looking for detailed information on specific hazards and loss prevention topics? Look no further than EMC Tech Sheets. EMC’S Risk Improvement Department has developed hundreds of Tech Sheet documents based on years of facility surveys and safety programs. These useful documents can be downloaded from emcinsurance.com.

You’ll find these loss control resources as well as safety signs, current and back issues of Loss Control Insights and more in the Loss Control section at emcinsurance.com.

Insights Online

PAPR To The Rescue

Learn more about a great new option for employees who have trouble finding respirators that fit properly. It’s called the PAPR — portable air purifying respirator.

John is a furnace tender and welder in a small brass foundry. His work activities repeatedly overexpose him to lead, which requires him to wear an air-purifying respirator. However, the long shape of John’s face prevents most standard air-purifying respirators from fitting properly and forming the tight seal needed to protect him. Luckily, his employer was able to solve the problem using a powered air purifying respirator, or PAPR.

What is a PAPR?
PAPRs are a class of respirators that are versatile in their protection. They are best suited for employees whose face shape, bone structure or facial hair prevents other air-purifying respirators from fitting correctly. They generally use a battery-operated blower motor in combination with cartridges or filters. The battery is often worn around the waist and lasts for a full 8-hour shift. The motor draws contaminated air through one or more cartridges and supplies the purified air to the wearer through a facepiece.

PAPR

The PAPR blower motor assembly may be outfitted to a variety of facepiece styles from tight-fitting half and full-face respirators to loose-fitting helmets and hoods. An assortment of cartridges and filters are available for a variety of exposure scenarios.

PAPR Advantages
One big advantage of PAPRs is that they offer a wide range of assigned protection factors, from 25 to 1,000 times the allowable exposure limit, depending on the style of facepiece chosen. They also allow employees to move freely, which is an advantage over supplied-air respirators that use an attached air hose.

If employees are engaged in medium to heavy work, PAPRs can supply them with a circulation of cool air. Additionally, PAPRs allow the user to breathe more easily with less resistance than traditional cartridge-type respirators. This makes them more comfortable to wear and use, increasing the probability that they will actually be worn.

Cautions To Consider
As with all air-purifying respirators, PAPRs should not be used in oxygen deficient atmospheres (less than 19.5% oxygen). They are not designed for use in atmospheres immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH conditions).

PAPRs should be used with caution when protecting against gases and vapors, which sometimes can go undetected and expose the wearer to an air contaminant without knowing. Just as is the case with a cartridge-type air purifying respirator, a cartridge or filter change-out schedule needs to be developed and followed. Alternatively, the cartridge(s) or filter(s) need to be equipped with an end of service life (ESL) indicator. Never assume the cartridge or filter designed for a gas or vapor can last a full work shift before being changed. The service life of a cartridge or filter depends on environmental conditions, airborne concentrations, amount of absorbent and other factors.

In the event of battery power failure of a PAPR, breathing resistance greatly increases and the wearer must exit to a hazard-free environment before removing the respirator. Employees using a battery-powered PAPR need to have a backup battery at all times.

Some wearers have complained that PAPRs are heavy and result in lower back pain when the blower motor assembly is located around the waist. An individual can also over-breathe the units — breathe faster than the rate that fresh air is provided — especially during heavy work, manual lifting and overexertion.

Weather conditions during outdoor work should also be a consideration. Hot, humid or cold weather can affect the user’s breathing and may also affect the cartridge/filter serviceability.

Maintenance of PAPRs
Prior to each use, a number of maintenance items need to be checked. The user should:

  • Check the blower unit for damage and cleanliness
  • Inspect for deterioration, physical damage or improper assembly
  • Conduct a low voltage alarm test
  • Ensure adequate air flow
  • Inspect the breathing tube for physical damage
  • Ensure adequate assembly

PAPRs can be an effective and efficient respiratory protective device. However, keep in mind that they are only one of many types of PPE that provide employees with exceptional respiratory protection. Individual exposure scenarios and employee characteristics must be considered in the selection of a proper respirator.

If you would like more information on PAPRs or respiratory protection, contact your independent insurance agent, local EMC loss control representative or email losscontrol@emcins.com.

[Author: Kent A. Candee, CIH]

Contractors

Power Line Warning Devices

A new report from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health evaluates the performance of two types of overhead power line proximity warning devices.

Accidental contact of overhead electrical power lines by mobile equipment is a leading cause of occupational fatalities in the United States, accounting for 20% of on-the-job electrocutions. Overhead electrical power line proximity warning devices (PWDs) are intended to warn personnel if mobile equipment moves within some preselected minimum distance of an energized overhead electrical power line.

Two commercially available PWDs were tested at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) Pittsburgh Research Laboratory (PRL). The objective of the tests was to document performance capabilities and limitations for these PWDs by identifying factors that can influence their operation. The two PWDs evaluated in this research are the SIGALARM Model 210 marketed by Allied Safety Systems, LLC, and the ASE Model 2100 from Allied Safety Engineering. Both of these devices operate by measuring the electric field present around energized power lines.

The PWDs were installed on a government-owned 22-st (20-mt) rough terrain crane. A purpose-built test site used for this research at PRL allowed operation of the crane near a variety of power line configurations operating at up to 25 kV. Most of the tests involved positioning the crane adjacent to one or more overhead power lines, adjusting sensitivities of the PWDs to alarm when the crane boom was approximately 20 ft (6.1 m) from the power lines, swinging the crane boom toward the lines under a wide variety of test conditions, and finally, for each unique set of test conditions, documenting the deviation from 20 ft (6.1 m) for actual alarm activation.

Test results show that several factors can adversely affect PWD performance. PWD alarm accuracy generally deteriorated when operating with a boom position significantly different than that used for the last sensitivity adjustment of the device. Another factor that can affect PWD performance is configuration of the overhead power line(s) involved. Accuracy of alarm activation distances was best for simple single-circuit installations, but degraded for multiple circuits on the same poles. This degradation was slightly greater for installations with different voltage levels and/or a combination of vertical and horizontal conductor arrangements.

Performance also degraded for crane operation between two intersecting power line installations, especially for intersecting lines at different voltages. An additional aspect of power line configuration shown to influence PWD accuracy was phase sequence on the power line circuit(s). Specific phase conductor arrangements and combinations, particularly in multiple circuit installations, resulted in either improved or degraded accuracy.

Tests were also conducted to evaluate the PWDs as “early warning devices” for situations such as moving a mobile crane into an unfamiliar work area. Results showed that the SIGALARM Model 210 could detect energized 13-kV power lines at a distance of 75-88 ft (22.9-26.8 m). This alarm distance would allow an operator to take preventive measures before the crane is in a position from which it could contact nearby power lines.

To view the full report, go to www.cdc.gov/niosh/mining/UserFiles/works/pdfs/2009-110.pdf.

[Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health]

About 37,000 people are treated for unintentional nail gun injuries each year. The Oklahoma State Department of Health offers some useful nail gun safety tips.

The most popular nailing device used in light and heavy construction is the pneumatic nail gun. Unfortunately, due to its ease of use, speed and availability, about 37,000 people are treated for unintentional nail gun injuries each year in emergency rooms, according to U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health data for 2001 to 2005.

Recent injury accidents involving the use of pneumatic nail guns have raised concerns about safe operating procedures. These accidents could have been easily prevented by adhering to the following simple safety procedures from the Oklahoma State Department of Health for the use of these tools:

  • Review the owner’s manual carefully with all operators. Have someone who is familiar with the tool demonstrate safe operating procedures. Then have each employee take a turn on the tool, and watch how each one performs.
  • Always wear safety glasses.
  • Do not hold the trigger down unless you’re purposefully firing the tool. This is especially important when descending ladders.
  • Keep people out of range of fire. Exercise extreme caution when using an air tool around another worker.
  • Never point the tool at anyone. Treat the tool like a firearm. Never assume the tool is empty.
  • Disconnect the air hose before clearing a jam or making adjustments.
  • Do not fire the tool unless the nose is firmly pressed against a work piece.
  • Use only compressed air to power the tool, not bottled gas. Do not exceed the manufacturer’s specified air pressure for the tool.
  • Keep your free hand safely out of the way of the tool.
  • Do not operate the tool around flammables.
  • Nail top to bottom when nailing wall sheathing in a vertical position.
  • Nail from the eaves to the ridge when nailing roof sheathing; this way you will not back off the edge of the roof.
  • Move forward, not backward, when nailing horizontal areas.
  • Secure the hose when working on scaffolding, to prevent the weight of the hose from dragging the tool off the scaffold if you set the tool down.

Other risks to guard against while using a nail gun include being hit by one of the nail gun’s attachments or a fastener used with the tool and being hit by flying concrete, wood chips and nails.

Local Governments

Firefighter Safety

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health offers tips to prevent firefighters from falling through floors.

On August 13, 2006, a 55-year-old male firefighter died and his partner was injured after they fell through the floor at a residential structure fire. An engine company was conducting a fast attack on a suspected basement fire, while a ladder company conducted horizontal ventilation. The victim and his partner were conducting a primary search on the ground floor. Smoke filled the ground floor and made visibility near zero, but little heat was detected as the victim and his partner conducted a search. They sounded the ceramic tile floor and took one crawling step forward on their knees when the floor collapsed.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOHS) has issued a report warning firefighters about the risks of falling through fire-damaged floors. Fire burning underneath floors can significantly degrade the floor system with little indication to fire fighters working above. Floors can fail within minutes of fire exposure, and new construction technology, such as engineered wood floor joists, may fail sooner than traditional construction methods. Fire fighters who operate on fire-damaged floors of all types have fallen through the weakened floor and been trapped in the fire below. Similar hazards exist when fire fighters work under fire-damaged floor systems that collapse onto them. NIOSH recommends that fire fighters use extreme caution when entering any structure that may have fire burning beneath the floor.

NIOSH Control Recommendations
To minimize risk when working above fire-damaged floors, NIOSH recommends that fire departments and fire fighters take the measures identified below. Many of these prevention measures are from the NIOSH Alert: Preventing Injuries and Deaths of Fire Fighters due to Truss System Failures [2005].

  • Conduct a thorough fire size-up and communicate the findings to all personnel on-scene before entering the building. Incident commanders and company officers should be trained and experienced in structure fire size-up to avoid putting fire fighters at unneeded risk of working above fire-damaged floors.
  • Do not enter a structure, room, or area when fire is suspected to be directly beneath the floor or area where fire fighters would be operating, or if the location of the fire is unknown.
  • Never assume structural safety of any floor having a significant fire under it (regardless of the construction).
  • Conduct pre-incident planning inspections during the construction phase to identify the type of floor construction. If pre-planning is not conducted, assume residential construction and small commercial buildings built since the early 1990s may contain engineered wood I-joists.
  • Report construction deficiencies noted during pre-planning to local building code officials. For example, engineered wood floor joists should only be modified per manufacturer specifications—usually limited to cutting to length and removing pre–cut knockouts for utility access. Report damaged or cut chords or webs to building officials.
  • Develop, enforce, and follow standard operating procedures (SOPs) on how to size up and combat fires safely in buildings of all construction types. Rapid intervention teams (RIT) should include a portable ladder with their RIT equipment when deployed at basement fires.
  • Provide training on identifying signs of weakened floor systems (soft or spongy feel, heat transmitted through floor, downward bowing, etc.). Make fire fighters aware that all floor types can fail with little or no warning.
  • Use a thermal imaging camera to help locate fires burning below or within floor systems, but recognize that the camera cannot be relied upon to assess the strength or safety of the floor. Fire fighters should be trained on the use of thermal imaging cameras, including limitations and difficulties in detecting fire burning below floor systems.
  • Immediately evacuate and, if possible, use alternate exit routes when floor systems directly beneath the floor where fire fighters would be operating are weakened by fire.
  • Use defensive overhaul procedures after fire extinguishment in structures containing fire-damaged floor systems of all types.
  • Consider becoming active in the building code process and influence requirements for fire resistance of floor and ceiling systems to further fire fighter safety and health.

The bottom line? Fire personnel should use extreme caution when entering structures that may have fire burning under the floor.

[Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health]

Partnership

When tackling a challenging safety problem, the best solutions often come from the people who know the problem best—employees who are exposed to it on a daily basis. When the managers of a local government in Nebraska wanted to improve their workplace injury rate, they used EMC’s Partnership Service to get started. A loss control consultant from EMC worked with a taskforce of local government employees to analyze their job hazards and come up with possible solutions.

One of several hazards identified by the taskforce involved lifting and pulling manhole covers. Because the covers weigh between 50 and 100 pounds each, the employee must use a lot of force to life and move them. Lots of bending and lifting mean increased potential for pulling back muscles, and when employees are required to use their hands to lift they may pinch their fingers under the edge of the lid.

After some discussion, the taskforce came up with a solution using an electronic magnet to grab the lids, eliminating the bending currently required of the employee. The employee controls the magnet with a truck-mounted jib hoist so that no handling of the manhole is required.

Since the introduction of this solution, productivity for tasks involving the lifting of manhole covers has increased dramatically. These tasks, which were previously avoided due to difficulty, are now accomplished with very little trouble. “For much less than the price of one back injury they were able to purchase this tool that has greatly increased their employees’ productivity and comfort,” says Dan Schomer, loss control consultant. “What a great investment!”

For more information about how EMC’s Partnership Service can help your organization, contact your independent insurance agent, local EMC loss control representative or email losscontrol@emcins.com.

Police Vehicle Safety

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration explains why extra precaution should be taken when mounting equipment to police vehicle dashboards.

Some aftermarket items mounted on a vehicle’s dashboard can interfere with air bag deployment or can be propelled into occupants, causing moderate to severe injuries, according to a recent study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The National Center for Statistics and Analysis’s Special Crash Investigations Program has discovered several situations in which laptop computers have caused injuries to police officers. These injuries are occurring due to communication terminals, warning devices, etc., mounted in the deployment path of passenger-side air bags. The deployment of the air bag causes objects in the deployment path to become flying projectiles.

Any piece of aftermarket equipment mounted to, in front of, or on top of the instrument panel of an air-bag-equipped vehicle poses a risk of interfering with the normal deployment path of the air bag, decreasing its effectiveness, or becoming a projectile inside the passenger compartment.

Because of these risks, it is imperative that the parties responsible for installing aftermarket equipment in emergency services vehicles, public utility vehicles, and other service vehicles check with the appropriate manufacturers’ representatives to get guidance for safe mounting locations and practices. Directions for obtaining some of this information from two suppliers of law enforcement/emergency services vehicles are given below.

Ford:
For information regarding mounting or locating equipment in the front seat/dashboard area for Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor vehicles to avoid air bag deployment zones, consult the police/fleet owner guide supplement in the glove box or go to www.fleet.ford.com.

GM:
For information on mounting or locating equipment in the front seat/dashboard area for Chevrolet Impala, Camaro, or Tahoe Police Interceptor vehicles and the Express Van and Hummer platforms to avoid air bag deployment zones, consult the police/fleet owner guide supplement in the glove box, or go to www.gmfleet.com.

For other manufacturers, contact the appropriate fleet services program.

[Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration]

Petroleum Marketers

Drug Testing Rate Stays At 25%

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration determined the minimum random drug testing rate for covered employees will remain at 25% for 2009.

According to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) drug testing requirements, operators of gas, hazardous liquid and carbon dioxide pipelines, as well as operators of liquefied natural gas facilities, must select a percentage of covered employees for random drug testing. PHMSA determined the minimum random drug testing rate for covered employees will remain at 25% for 2009. This rate is based on the reported random drug test positive rate for the pipeline industry, which was less than 1% in 2007.

[Source: Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration]

E15 Allowed In Fuel Pumps

Underwriters Laboratory has approved up to 15% ethanol blends to be dispensed from gasoline pumps. However, the National Association of Convenience Stores is concerned about potential risks.

Underwriters Laboratory (UL) will allow up to 15 percent ethanol blends to be dispensed from gasoline pumps, and supports Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) deciding to permit legacy system dispensers, listed to UL 87 and currently installed in the market, to be used with fuel blends containing a maximum ethanol content of 15 percent, DomesticFuel.com reported.

Existing fuel dispensers certified under UL 87 were intended for use with ethanol blends up to E10 — the current legal limit for non-flex fuel vehicles in the United States under the federal Clean Air Act, according to UL. However, data the company gathered as ongoing research into higher ethanol blends supports findings that existing dispensers can be used with ethanol blends up to 15 percent. AHJs are advised to consult with the dispenser manufacturer to confirm that the dispenser is compatible with the fuel to be dispensed, according to the report.

“UL determined that there is no significant incremental risk of damage between E10 and fuels with a maximum of 15 percent ethanol. This conclusion was reached after careful examination of the effects of varying levels of ethanol on components,” John Drengenberg, consumer affairs manager for UL, told the Web site. “We will continue to evaluate test and field findings, as well as the scientific literature, as it becomes available and make this information available to AHJs.”

UL researchers found that using equipment certified to UL 87 to dispense blends with a maximum ethanol content of 15 percent should not result in critical safety concerns, the report stated.

However, the National Association of Convenience Stores’ staff and counsel raised questions as a result of UL’s ruling, and in a report, stated the announcement may not materially alter the legal requirements with which retailers must abide.

NACS’ questions are:

  • Will the announcement apply to all existing infrastructure (e.g. tanks, pipes and connecting equipment) or just dispensers?
  • What effect, if any, does UL’s announcement have with respect to state law and local fire marshal matters, as some local codes and the fire code require official certification of equipment.
  • What effect, if any, does the announcement have with respect to equipment compatibility requirements included in tank insurance policies or state tank fund programs, as many require official certification.
  • What effect, if any, does UL’s announcement have with respect to retailer exposure to liability associated with selling E15 through non-certified equipment?

NACS added in a report that it “remains concerned that retailers choosing to sell E15 through existing equipment are exposing themselves to considerable financial risk.”

In addition, UL emphasized dispensers pumping a higher percentage of ethanol should be subject to regular inspection and preventative maintenance as specified by the dispenser manufacturer, as the potential for degradation of the metals and materials in a dispensing system increases as the percentage of ethanol increases.

Reprinted with permission from Convenience Store News.

Schools

Cheerleading Is A Contact Sport

According to a recent ruling by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, cheerleaders are immune from negligence actions under a law that prevents participants in recreational contact sports from suing for unintentional injuries.

Cheerleading may seem to be a safe recreational activity, but in Wisconsin it's a contact sport—like hockey or football—that can cause serious injuries. The Wisconsin Supreme Court reached this conclusion in reviewing a 2006 lawsuit by a 14-year-old cheerleader who hit her head when another cheerleader failed to catch her during a practice. In addition to suing her teammate, Brittany Noffke sued her coach and the Holmen Area School District for damages.

"Cheerleading involves a significant amount of physical contact between the cheerleaders that at times results in a forceful interaction between the participants when one person is tossed high into the air and then caught by those same tossers," Justice Annette Ziegler wrote in the unanimous decision. Therefore, cheerleaders are immune from negligence actions under a Wisconsin law that prevents participants in recreational contact sports from suing for unintentional injuries, the court ruled Jan. 27.

The court also ruled that the teacher and school district were immune from liability under a statute that shields governmental agencies from lawsuits over the actions of their employees. "This is the first state to rule that cheerleading is a contact sport," said Kara Burgos, an attorney at Moen Sheehan Meyer Ltd. in La Crosse, Wis., who represented defendant Kevin Bakke and his insurer, American Family Mutual Insurance Co. At the time of the accident, Mr. Bakke was 16. Because it was the first time a court has addressed whether cheerleading was a contact sport, Ms. Burgos said she resorted to citing cases involving injuries from paintball and "kick the can" games as examples of other types of contact sports comparable to cheerleading.

The ruling "creates a broad definition of what constitutes a contact sport in Wisconsin," acknowledged Tracy Tool, who is with Eau Claire, Wis.-based Bye, Goff & Rohde Ltd. and represented Ms. Noffke.

Reprinted with permission from Business Insurance.

School Bus Safety In Iowa

A University of Iowa study found that school buses are among the safest forms of road transportation in Iowa.

University of Iowa researchers recently published findings that may put some parents at ease — school buses are among the safest forms of road transportation in Iowa.

Jingzhen (Ginger) Yang, Ph.D., assistant professor of community and behavioral health in the UI College of Public Health, and colleagues examined the incidence of school bus crashes in a study published in the March issue of the injury prevention journal Accident Analysis and Prevention.

“We discovered school buses in Iowa experience low crash rates and very few crashes result in injuries,” said Yang, lead author of the study. On average, there were about 13 nonfatal injuries and less than one fatality per 100 million bus miles traveled. When compared with overall vehicle crash fatality and injury rates, fatalities in school bus crashes were more than three times less likely, and injuries during school bus crashes were more than five times less likely.

The researchers looked at crash data from January 2002 through December 2005 identified in the Iowa Crash Data, a comprehensive database of all reported crashes in Iowa. They then used school bus mileage data, provided by the Iowa Department of Education, and calculated the crash, injury and fatality rates per 100 million bus miles traveled.

“As far as we know this is the only study that examines bus crash rates with actual, not estimated, school bus mileage,” Yang said. “The particular strength of this paper is that we examined overall incidence of school bus crashes and injury incidence using accurate measures for both the numerator — crashes and injuries — and the denominator — school bus miles traveled —- which provides a better picture of school bus crashes.”

Researchers also noted that passenger vehicle drivers and passengers were more likely to be the cause of the crashes and were more likely to be injured in school bus collisions. In particular, crash rates of vehicle drivers ages 15 to 18 were almost two-fold compared to those of bus drivers, due to following too closely and/or speeding.

“The low likelihood of both crashes and injuries for buses compared with passenger vehicles indicates that school buses are a very safe form of transportation,” said Corinne Peek-Asa, Ph.D., director of the UI Injury Prevention and Research Center and co-author of the paper. “Furthermore, in bus crashes it is the passenger vehicle operators who are more often at fault and more often injured. This indicates the need for safe driving education for parents and people driving around school buses, which may be beneficial to the safety of all children traveling to and from school.”

The study was funded the UI Injury Prevention Research Center, which is funded by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, and the Iowa Department of Transportation.

[Source: The University of Iowa College of Public Health Office of Communications and External Relations]