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Summer 2011 Volume 52

Feature Articles

While most people tend to look straight ahead when they walk, EMC Risk Improvement Manager Mike Duffield tends to keep his focus on the ground. “That’s where the accidents happen,” says Duffield, who works with EMC policyholders to reduce the frequency and severity of slip and fall accidents.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one million Americans suffer a slip and fall injury in the United States annually. In order to reduce this risk, businesses should frequently inspect their sidewalks and other exterior and interior walkways for hazards and make repairs as soon as possible. “Spring and summer are the perfect seasons to do just that,” says Duffield. “Not only are sidewalks and other areas free of snow, but warm weather makes it easier for crews to do repair work.”

Be On The Lookout For These Hazards

Based on his experience, Duffield cites the following sidewalk conditions that can result in costly slip and fall accidents:

  • Vertical displacement and/or settlement of sidewalks greater than ½ inch
  • Cracks greater than ½ inch across
  • Significant portions of surface chipped away
  • Holes or potholes greater than 1 inch in diameter
  • Chunks or slabs of loose concrete
  • Partially blocked pathways (fences, signs, vending machines, etc.)
  • Utility plugs and valves that protrude 2/3 inch or more above the surface
  • Low-hanging tree limbs, bushes or other plants growing into the sidewalk
  • Wet leaves, rocks, sand, dirt or other debris accumulating on the sidewalk
  • Misaligned downspouts directing water to walkways, which can result in slippery mold in the summer and icy surfaces in the winter
In addition to inspecting sidewalks, Duffield encourages policyholders to inspect parking lots, alleys, patios, stairs and other areas of pedestrian travel for the same types of hazards.

Little Fixes For Big Problems

When compared to the average cost of a slip and fall accident ($16,000, according to the National Safety Council), the time and effort required to make repairs is a wise investment. “Now’s the time to take a good look at your exterior walkways and repair any problems before fall and winter,” reminds Duffield. “When you’re done outside, don’t forget to turn your focus to slip and fall hazards inside your facility.”

Learn more about preventing slips and falls with these EMC resources:

Watch For Lightning This Summer
Most people associate June and July with warm weather, but these two months are also the most severe for lightning. Approximately 90 million lightning bolts strike the United States each year, causing approximately 30,000 business fires, more than 400 personal injuries, and 30 percent of all power outages. Lightning is also responsible for more deaths and property losses than tornadoes and hurricanes.

As the prime season for lightning approaches, EMC loss control professionals encourage policyholders to develop a lightning protection system to protect buildings, occupants and contents from the thermal, mechanical and electrical effects of lighting.

Consumer Product Safety Database
Consumers now have a new resource for product safety information. The website,, was created by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) as part of the Consumer Safety Improvement Act. The site allows consumers to research products they own or may consider buying, as well as report dangerous products.

The site was developed to help CSPC more quickly identify product hazards and provide consumers with instant access to safety information.

Slips and falls are the second leading cause of accidental death in the workplace and one of the most costly types of workers’ compensation and general liability claims. Since no walking surface can be made completely risk-free, it is important to make every attempt to reduce and avoid conditions that could cause a slip and/or fall accident. A comprehensive slip and fall prevention program should be implemented in your organization to help reduce slip and fall injuries and related costs.

Assess Risks And Needs
Slip and fall incidences should be reviewed to determine where improvements are needed most. This review should include considerations for weather, cleaning activities, accidental spills, water leaks and uneven or elevated surfaces.

Establish And Communicate Procedures
Define formal procedures for maintaining walking and working surfaces, reporting hazards and incidences, and program responsibility and accountability. Procedures should be communicated to all employees to provide visible management involvement in the injury prevention process.

Provide Training For Appropriate Staff
Training should include communicating the organization’s safety commitment, while ensuring employees have the proper skills to identify and eliminate potential hazards. Establish ongoing training to help employees remember those skills and implement the program effectively.

Conduct Regular Worksite Analyses
An initial worksite analysis should be conducted to establish a baseline for existing hazards. It can also be used to measure improvement after corrective actions have been taken. The evaluation of existing hazards should include a comparison to nationally recognized standards and basic concepts of workplace safety and health. The assessment should include employee input and appropriate management response.

Correction Of Unsafe Conditions
Develop and implement a method to provide timely response to all walking and working surface deficiencies.

Perform Effective Incident Investigations
Incident investigation teams should be established and trained to determine the root cause of each slip and fall incident and to make recommendations to prevent reoccurrence. Effective incident investigations should not punish the person involved in the incident, but instead consider all the factors that may have contributed to the incident. The investigation team also should periodically review incident trends to help focus their injury prevention efforts.

Perform Regular Analysis Of Accomplishments And Needs
The investigation teams should report the status of activities, needs and accomplishments to the appropriate management person(s) on a regular basis. The status of operational changes and needs should be communicated to all employees, who should be encouraged to express their ideas about ways to decrease slip and fall accidents.

Courts are wrestling with social media in the workplace—from using it in the hiring and/or termination process to controlling employees’ use of social media. “It will likely take the courts years to make a clear-cut decision in an area that is constantly evolving,”admits EMC Staff Attorney Brian Lohse. Policyholders are encouraged to follow some basic rules he has learned from attending various legal seminars on the subject. Policyholders also are encouraged to send their HR staff to training on social media issues in the workplace.

Rule 1: Be careful when disciplining an employee for something said online. Those postings may be protected by a host of state and federal laws (such as The National Labor Relations Act or whistleblowers laws), as well as possible constitutional issues.

Rule 2: Looking at a prospective employee’s social media site before the first interview could open the door to allegations of discrimination by a prospective employee.

Rule 3: Develop a written social media policy and share it with current employees and new hires. This policy should cover how employees can use social media during working hours, a description of unacceptable social media use and the consequences of such actions.

Rule 4: Supervisors and human resources professionals should think carefully about “friending” subordinates. This will reduce the chance of facing allegations that they’ve made decisions based on the subordinate’s personal life and online behavior.

Rule 5: The most important rule of all—consult your own attorney in any matter relating to the use of social media in the workplace, including the development of a social media policy.

Other Topics

Online Training For Office Workers
A poorly-designed office workstation can create discomfort, fatigue and injury for your employees. With a new online training module from EMC, employees can learn how to customize their workstation layouts for increased comfort with simple adjustments to computer monitors, keyboards and desk organization. Employees also can take a quiz to check their understanding of the training material. View the workstation layout online training module.

Print Safety Posters On-Demand
Safety posters have always been free for EMC commercial policyholders, but now you can get these helpful tools faster than ever before. Download all of our posters as high-resolution PDFs that can be printed instantly from your computer. More than 50 posters are available to choose from on topics ranging from preventing slips and falls to proper use of safety equipment (many available in both English and Spanish). View safety posters.

Mike Duffield

His business card reads “Risk Improvement Manager,” but it just as easily could read, “extra set of eyes.” When conducting on-site facility surveys, Mike Duffield may recognize dangerous slip and fall hazards in and around your facility that have gone unnoticed for years.

As part of a comprehensive slip and  fall risk assessment, EMC loss control experts, like Duffield, tour facilities to document and photograph any potential hazards. They also measure floor surfaces using a digital slip meter and review administrative policies regarding snow removal, floor maintenance procedures and other factors that could result in slip and fall accidents.

The survey is invaluable in providing policyholders with a comprehensive report that details the findings and suggests solutions to mitigate potential hazards. Upon request, EMC loss control experts also can provide slip and fall awareness and prevention training for employees.

Count on EMC® to be your “extra set of eyes” in developing a proactive approach to reducing injuries in your facility. To set up a slip and fall risk assessment, contact your EMC agent, local EMC loss control representative or email

Insights Online

  1. Always keep aisles and walkways free of storage and debris.
  2. If objects must be stored on the floor, keep them above knee level.
  3. Clean up spills immediately. If spills or wet areas cannot be cleaned immediately, mark them with appropriate signs.


The number of children participating in sports has grown exponentially over the past decade. Awareness of child injuries—particularly concussions—must increase as well. Read what the National Athletic Trainers’ Association is doing about this issue.

With the support of 40 sports and health organizations, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) presented a 2010 report card on the youth sports safety crisis. This was a follow-up to NATA’s first summit earlier in 2010, where it created the Youth Sports Safety Alliance to encourage legislation and action regarding medical care, equipment safety and increased research on making youth sports safer.

The urgent need for immediate and improved health care on the playing field has become evident due to several conditions, including:

  • The frequency of youth sports injuries
  • Recent national attention on helmet-to-helmet hitting in football
  • The risk of chronic or catastrophic injury from concussion
  • Sudden cardiac arrest
  • Sickle cell trait
  • Heat sickness

"Today, kids are playing more sports year-round,” said event moderator Marjorie J. Albohm, MS, ATC, NATA president. “Yet physical activity doesn’t come without risk, and the sports philosophy of ‘playing through pain’ can result in young athletes––eager to make good impressions––continuing or returning to play when sitting out and taking time to recover is the safest course of action."

Giving the year a “C+,” NATA noted that 48 young athletes died during 2010. Sudden cardiac arrest accounted for nearly half of those deaths, while brain injury (concussion), heat illness, and exertional sickling (a result of sickle cell trait) were factors in the others. On the other hand, Alliance members, other organizations and state legislatures are working hard to address safety issues and prevent further deaths. Given what has transpired in 2010, the Youth Sports Safety Alliance has issued a revised call-to-action for athletes, parents, coaches, health-care providers and legislators.

Approximately 8,000 children are treated in emergency rooms each day for sports-related injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), high school athletes suffer two million injuries; 500,000 doctor visits; and 30,000 hospitalizations each year. “There are three times as many catastrophic football injuries among high school athletes as college athletes, yet only 42 percent of high schools have access to athletic training services,” said Albohm.

Speaking Out For Youth Sports Safety

Kelci Stringer founded the Korey Stringer Institute to serve the needs of active people and athletes at all levels––those who are physically active, and those who supervise and care for these individuals. Her journey towards advocacy, education and prevention of sudden death in sports began on Aug. 1, 2001, when her husband, National Football League (NFL) all-pro lineman Korey Stringer, died from complications of an exertional heat stroke at the age of 27 while practicing with the Minnesota Vikings. She established the Korey Stringer Foundation, which has been instrumental in developing a partnership with the NFL, Gatorade® and the University of Connecticut to form the Korey Stringer Institute, which works to minimize sudden deaths in sports through awareness.

Julie Gilchrist, M.D., a pediatrician and medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, spoke about her organization’s commitment to youth sports safety and its dedicated resources for consumer education and scientific research.

According to Dawn Comstock, Ph.D., associate professor at Ohio State University College of Medicine, although boys continue to participate in sports at a higher rate than girls, female athletes are now more likely than their male counterparts to suffer sports-related concussions. Comstock discussed the findings of a new study on gender differences in concussions. Published in the January 2011 Journal of Athletic Training, the study found no difference in the number of symptoms reported by males and females. However, athletes often reported different types of symptoms, depending on their gender.

Jeff Miller, vice president for Government Relations and Public Policy for the NFL, reported that the NFL is collaborating with the NATA in the effort to work with state legislatures on laws dealing with youth sports concussions.

Patti James also discussed her ongoing work to enact state legislation to protect young athletes from heatstroke. She is the mother of Will James, a 16-year-old football player in Little Rock, Ark., who passed out from heatstroke on Aug. 13, 2010. He was eventually placed in a medically induced coma for a week, suffering liver damage and kidney failure Luckily, he recovered from both. “Heatstroke is life-threatening and it can happen to athletes at all levels, including children,” James said. “I’m working to make sure what happened to my son and our family doesn’t happen to others.”

Medical Presentations: Highlight Risks, Prevention and Treatment

Gerard Gioia, Ph.D., a pediatric neuropsychologist and chief of the Division of Pediatric Neuropsychology at Children’s National Medical Center, is researching the development and implementation of more effective methods and tools for early and ongoing evaluation of post-concussion neuropsychological functioning and symptoms. Gioia spoke about the need to implement updated guidelines for diagnosing concussions on the field, ways to improve recognition of concussions and speed the removal of an injured player from the field, as well as the urgent need for individual assessment and tracking from the time an injury occurs through treatment and eventual return to play.

For the past 11 years, Douglas Casa, Ph.D., ATC, FACSM, FNATA, has worked toward his goal of preventing sudden death during sports at the University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education in the Department of Kinesiology. According to Casa, 2005 through 2009 were the worst years over the past 35 on record for exertional heatstroke. Once a victim of heat illness himself, Casa spoke on the dangers of heat illnesses, methods of prevention and the latest treatments––including the need to cool affected athletes before transporting them to the emergency room.

Francis O’Connor, M.D., MPH, associate professor at the Uniformed Services University, medical director for the Consortium on Health and Military Performance and president of the American Medical Society of Sports Medicine, spoke about sudden cardiac arrest in athletes. He stressed the need for preparticipation screening for heart ailments, as well as the efficacy of having electronic heart defibrillators, athletic trainers and emergency action plans available in case an athlete succumbs to cardiac arrest on the field.

Scott Galloway, ATC, LAT, is the head athletic trainer at DeSoto High School in DeSoto, Texas. In 2007, he was selected to participate in the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Task Force on sickle cell trait (SCT), and now encourages sickle-trait testing of athletes at every level to ensure safe participation in sports. During the past 11 years, exertional sickling has killed 16 athletes, making SCT the leading cause of nontraumatic death in Division I football in the past 10 years.

For more information, please visit

[Source: National Athletic Trainers' Association]

There is no substitute for proper roof design, use of time-tested products, high-quality workmanship, construction quality control and ongoing roof maintenance. The risks of shortcutting any of these factors are too high to ignore, and can often lead to premature roof failure.

“A study by the Educational Writers Association found that one quarter of the country’s school buildings were inadequate, obsolete, or downright dangerous… Researchers report a direct correlation between poor physical conditions in schools and poor test scores.”From the book: The Way We Really Are by Stephanie Coontz

Maintaining aging school buildings is a key component for providing a safe and effective learning environment for school children. One of the most important building components to maintain, yet the most overlooked, is the roof, as the two pie charts below illustrate.

Building Costs for roofing pie chart Construction Litigation for roofing pie chart

The lack of proper roof design, use of time tested products, high quality workmanship, and on-going roof maintenance; all contribute to this disturbing fact.

As Robert L. Bencini, an attorney with Duke, Holzman, Yeager & Photidis LLP of Buffalo, NY, which specializes in construction litigation, states in his article “In Defense of Roofing Performance”:

“A full 15 percent of all new roofs fail within the first six years of service. These figures are a sobering testament to the industry’s preponderance of bargain-basement generic roofing materials, sloppy installation and ignored maintenance.”

And there is little, if any, formal roofing education or training in our school systems, even in the engineering, architectural, or construction curriculums. Yet it is the one building component that protects all others, as well as the building occupants.

So what can or should be done?

There are seven factors that affect the long-term performance of a roof system: design, installation, materials used, maintenance, construction quality control, roof system warranty, and weather. Of these seven factors, only weather is beyond a building owner’s control.

Over 1,000 building owners and managers were asked to rank these six controllable factors, in order of importance on their effect on a roof’s long-term performance.

The following table shows the results of this poll. The approximate cost of each factor as a percentage of the total cost is also included.

The six controllable factors, their ranking and average cost as percentage of the total cost.

Obviously, all these factors are important to a roof’s long-term performance. Some are considered more important than others. Based on this input, following is a brief look at the significance of each factor on a roof’s performance.


As the table demonstrates, the roof design was considered the most important factor affecting the roof’s long-term performance. There was also a significant margin between the perceived importance of roof design compared to all the other factors. Yet, we see much too often the roofing contractors submitting a bid are being asked to submit their own design or scope of work.

Without a detailed specification where all parties are bidding ‘apples to apples,’ the contractors must provide a ‘design’ that will be the lowest cost in order for them to secure the job. The building owner is not getting the best design, only the cheapest.

A quality roof design contributes only 2 to 7 percent to the total cost of a 20-year roof system. It is the most cost effective factor influencing a roof’s performance and should always be properly addressed.


Roofing is rated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as the fifth most dangerous occupation in America. It is a very difficult, risky, dirty, undertrained and undereducated profession.

Yet, the labor to install a roof is the most costly factor and has the greatest influence on how the roof will perform. If the roof is not installed properly, it will not perform no matter the quality of the roof design or roofing products. Therefore, a highly experienced, skilled, and conscientious roofing crew is extremely important and should be of primary consideration when choosing a contractor. References and past performances should be meticulously checked out.


New and improved waterproofing products are emerging on the market all the time. Unfortunately, new and improved usually means less expensive. The cost of the membrane, not its proven performance, is too often the overriding factor in choosing a roof system. But keep in mind, the difference in cost between a high quality, time-tested roofing membrane and a low cost commodity brand is usually less than 10 percent of the total cost.

If you are looking for long-term performance, do your research. The small additional cost of high quality proven products is well worth it. The proper design and installation of all the other roof system products (i.e., insulation fasteners, adhesive, sheet metal, etc.) are just as important.


“By far the most often neglected factor affecting a roof’s performance is maintenance. A choice not to have a maintenance program can cost you five times the cost of an annual inspection and maintenance program.” (From “Owning Up To Your Investment,” by Dennis Firman PE, former Chief of Design and Construction for the U.S. Air Force.)

A proactive inspection and maintenance program should be started immediately after a roof is installed. Too many times building owners believe since a roof is new and is warranted, it can be ignored for the first several years. However, many design and/or workmanship deficiencies will develop within the first few years of a roof’s service life. The smallest defect can turn into a major problem if not corrected immediately.


As mentioned previously, the installation of the roof system is considered one of the two most important factors in the roof’s performance. It is also difficult and dangerous. For most roof construction projects, it is also the largest cost factor.

Construction inspection is critical to ensure the design specifications are being adhered to and quality installation and safety standards are being met.

“Inspection is one of the weakest links in the construction chain. Many owners are unaware of the need for rigorous field inspections and some are reluctant to pay the price for such apparently non-productive work. Rigorous inspections are the strongest line of defense against poor quality work.” (From the Manual of Built-Up Roofing)


Some roofing membrane manufacturers are selling roof warranties, not roofing membranes. A 10-year roof warranty for labor and material was the norm 20 years ago. Now 20-year, even 30-year warranties are being offered. Before you pay $0.15 - $0.20/sq. ft. for a 30-year warranty, it may be worthwhile to read the warranty limitations and exclusions. Remember the manufacturer is not providing you a warranty to protect you. The warranty is written by the manufacturers to protect THEM.

Following are just a few of the warranty exclusions and/or special conditions that will make the warranty null and void:

  • Lack of proper or reasonable maintenance
  • Unauthorized repairs
  • Failure to notify manufacturer within prescribed time of discovery of a leak
  • Traffic or storage of material on the roof
  • Ponding water on the roof
  • Abnormal climatic conditions
  • Damage due to winds over 42 mph

Nearly every roof system warranty could be declared null and void based on these exclusions. Roof membrane manufacturers anticipate that 80 percent of their warranties are going to be voided, lost, or forgotten.

Rober L. Bencini said:

“A warranty, which commodity manufacturers and financially unstable contractors try to substitute for stringent performance criteria, is a convenient diversion. Ask any lawyer. The truth is that manufacturer warranties are designed to limit a manufacturer’s liability. Their main purpose is to relinquish a buyer’s right to recover damages under the common law that he might otherwise win in the courts.”

As with any building component, there is no substitute for proper roof design, use of time tested products, high quality workmanship, construction quality control, and on-going roof maintenance. The risks of short cutting any of these factors are too high to ignore, and can often lead to premature roof failure.

Take time to consider the importance of these factors, and the value each provides in attaining a quality, long-term roof system. The cost of cheap is too high not to.

Kent Mattison, PE
Benchmark, Inc.
6065 Huntington Ct. NE
Cedar Rapids, IA 52402

Benchmark, Inc., is a national roof and pavement consulting company that helps school districts develop and implement roof and pavement management programs.

[Reprinted by permission of Benchmark, Inc.; February 2011;]

Local Governments

Public employees are being injured at a greater rate than workers in the private industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Count on EMC® for proven loss control strategies and tactics to help curb this disturbing trend.

For the first time, the most recent figures on workplace injuries from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) include incident rates for workers in state and local governments. Released this past fall, the findings indicate these public employees are being injured at a greater rate than workers in the private industry.

In 2009, the private sector reported a workplace injury and illness rate of 3.6 cases per 100 workers. In the public sector, among both state and local government workers, the rate was 5.8 cases per 100 workers. The bulk of these injuries and illnesses among public workers (nearly four out of every five) came from local government, which had a rate of 6.3 cases per 100 workers. State government workers reported a rate of 4.6 cases.

Regarding 2009 occupational injury and illness cases requiring days away from work, the private industry had 106 cases per 10,000 full-time employees. The public industry rate was nearly double that figure.

“We find it very troubling to note that the rate among local and state government workers was 185 cases and 180 cases per 10,000 full-time workers, respectively,” OSHA administrator David Michaels said in a press release.

The BLS figures showed high occurrences of injuries among transit and intercity bus drivers, law enforcement officials, emergency responders and nursing aides, and orderlies.

Source: National Safety Council

Parades are fun, exciting and a thrill to watch. With live animals, vehicles of all shapes and sizes, and spectators lining the route, parades also present some unique risks. EMC loss control experts offer a dozen tips for keeping parades as safe as possible for participants and spectators.

During a 2010 Fourth of July parade in Iowa, a runaway horse carriage left one person dead and 23 others injured. A few weeks later in North Dakota, two youngsters were injured when they stepped off a moving float during a state fair parade. With parade season upon us, EMC loss control experts offer the following tips for keeping your parade safe:

  • Do a complete inspection of the parade route prior to its beginning. Look for hazards such as large pot holes, dangerous intersections or blocked sidewalks.
  • Establish the staffing needs for the parade, staging area, traffic control and ending area. Recruit and train responsible staff members.
  • Establish a plan for traffic control.
  • Set up a parade staging area. Animals should be kept separated from other noisy participants such as bands, sirens and motorcycles. If the ending point of the parade is different than the starting point, an area should be established for safely loading animals or picking up parade participants.
  • If larger animals are allowed in the parade, someone familiar with this type of animal should be used to evaluate their demeanor. If that person deems the animal as unsafe or not completely under the owner’s control, it should be immediately removed from the parade.
  • All vehicles in the parade should provide proof of insurance and be operated by a licensed driver.
  • Nothing should be thrown from any type of vehicle, float, wagon or animal. Consider requiring walkers to hand out any candy, toy or other material to spectators. No alcoholic beverages should be allowed.
  • All children must be supervised by an adult.
  • Any float or vehicle with restricted vision must be preceded by a walking guide who is in constant communication with the operator.
  • People riding on vehicles or floats must have a secure handhold or foothold. No one should be allowed to enter or exit a vehicle or float along the parade route or while the vehicle is moving.
  • No open flames or explosives should be allowed.
  • Restrictions should be placed on the width and height of the floats and vehicles in the parade to help ensure they can safely maneuver corners and do not interfere with overhead lines.


OSHA has released a guidance document to help small businesses comply with the recently published cranes and derricks rule. To view this material, visit OSHA’s Cranes and Derricks Construction webpage at

In early March 2011, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) issued the Small Entity Compliance Guide for Cranes and Derricks in Construction to help businesses comply with the recently published Cranes and Derricks in Construction rule.

OSHA published the rule in August 2010 to address the number of worker injuries and deaths associated with the use of cranes and derricks in construction. The rule also addresses technological advances in equipment since the old rule was issued in 1971.

“Over the past four decades, we’ve continued to see a significant number of worker injuries and deaths from electrocution, crushed by and struck by hazards while performing cranes and derricks operations,” said Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. “This guide will help employers understand what they must do to protect their workers from these dangerous, sometimes fatal, incidents.”

The small business guide is divided into chapters that correspond to sections of the new rule. This guide accompanies other OSHA compliance materials on crane-related topics available on the agency’s website, including a PowerPoint overview, web chat transcript, webinar, list of frequently asked questions and fact sheets.

Visit OSHA’s Cranes and Derricks in Construction webpage to view these products. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthy workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s workers by setting and enforcing standards and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit

[Source: Occupational Safety & Health Administration]

According to an OSHA standard, all highway and road construction workers must wear high-visibility (hi-vis) apparel. Four classes of hi-vis apparel are described in the standard. Learn which class of apparel is right for your particular situation.

During a recent visit to a construction project, I came across a very common and unsettling problem: improper roadway protection and inappropriate high-visibility clothing. A worker wearing an open-weave reflective vest (over a blue T-shirt) was working inside an active temporary traffic work zone; he was removing concrete curbing using a jackhammer with his back turned to oncoming traffic, and the work area lacked roadway protection. More often than not, construction workers and supervisors do not realize the importance of establishing adequate roadway protection, procedure implementation, and proper visibility garments until it is too late.

How Can Work Zone Accidents Be Prevented?

First, understand what the law requires. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), which is published by the Department of Transportation (USDOT), provides guidance on control devices, as well as what procedures to follow on roads open to public travel. MUTCD* recommends high-visibility garments be selected by a trained person designated by the employer. It also states that workers exposed to the risks of moving roadway traffic or construction equipment must wear Class II or III high-visibility safety garments while on roads open to public travel. Additionally, Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has published a Letter of Interpretation which requires the use of high-visibility safety garments by workers on road/highway work zones. Second, consult a safety professional with experience in roadway work zones.

First, understand what the law requires. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), which is published by the Department of Transportation (USDOT), provides guidance on control devices, as well as what procedures to follow on roads open to public travel. MUTCD* recommends high-visibility garments be selected by a trained person designated by the employer. It also states that workers exposed to the risks of moving roadway traffic or construction equipment must wear Class II or III high-visibility safety garments while on roads open to public travel. Additionally, Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has published a Letter of Interpretation which requires the use of high-visibility safety garments by workers on road/highway work zones. Second, consult a safety professional with experience in roadway work zones.

Below are some tips for the selection of adequate roadway protection and high-visibility clothing:

  • Assess the work zone activities, conduct a hazard analysis then draft a worker safety plan which includes methods of roadway protection and high-visibility clothing requirements. This plan should be developed by a competent person.
  • Select clothing in compliance with the ANSI/ISEA 107 standard. Many “cool” garments do not comply with these requirements, which include retroreflectivity (light reflection) and brightness.
  • Make sure high-visibility garments are properly maintained and replaced when unserviceable.

Three Specific ANSI Classes Of Garments

Class I: These are for personnel not working on the open roadways (parking lot attendants and sidewalk maintenance workers are examples of personnel who would use this type of apparel). These garments should be used:

  • When the wearers activities and focus are never diverted from approaching traffic
  • When there is ample separation between the worker and traffic
  • When traffic speed is NOT above 25 miles per hour

Class II: These are considered the minimum levels of personnel protection on projects where roads are open to public travel. Examples of activities during which personnel can wear Class II garments include ship and cargo operations, roadway construction and maintenance, surveying, law enforcement, and railroad maintenance. These garments should be used:

  • During inclement weather or in work environments that pose a greater risk than those of Class I
  • During activities that may shift a worker’s focus away from the approaching traffic
  • When workers are in close proximity to passing vehicles traveling between 25 to 50 miles per hour

Class III: These garments are for the maximum protection and should be worn by personnel (e.g., roadway construction, survey crews and law enforcement response) performing activities under the following conditions:

  • There are serious hazards and tasks that would take the workers attention away from vehicular traffic (e.g. paving and saw cutting concrete)
  • Traffic speeds exceed 50 miles per hour
  • Work is performed during nighttime operations and /or there are reduced sight distances

Note about Emergency Responders: The 2009 version of the MUTCD addresses exempt firefighters or other emergency responders working within the roadway and engaged in emergency operations that directly expose them to flame, fire, heat, and/or hazardous materials from wearing high-visibility safety apparel. They may wear retroreflective turnout gear that is specified and regulated by other organizations, such as the National Fire Protection Association; however, if they are just working within the roadway, then high-visibility safety apparel must be worn (for more information please refer to Chapter 6D of the 2009 MUTCD).

Roadway work zones are extremely dangerous and accidents usually yield disastrous consequences. For this reason, contractors should always make sure that proper work zone protection is provided, and we should always slow down around construction zones and respect signals—give them a brake!

  • As per 23 CFR§ 655.603, the MUTCD, approved by the Federal Highway Administrator is the national standard for all traffic control devices installed on any street, highway, or bicycle trail open to public travel in accordance with 23 U.S.C. 109(d) and 402(a).

[This article ,authored by Diego Tolosa, CHST, is reprinted with the permission of, workplace safety consultants]

Petroleum Marketers

According to a 2010 nationwide survey of convenience store owners, retailers lost nearly $90 million due to drive-offs at the gas pump. Read what one Wisconsin retailer is doing to reverse that trend.

Locally owned convenience store chain PDQ Food Stores Inc. is moving forward with a plan to prevent gas drive-offs. The company plans to upgrade its fuel pumps, making every store in the Madison area prepay only, WISC-TV reported.

Once the change is implemented, drivers will have to use a credit card at the pump or pre-pay inside before pumping fuel. "It's no secret that as prices get higher, the instances of theft increase as well. Plus, it's kind of a double whammy because the impact of that theft is much greater at $3.50 per gallon vs. $2.50 per gallon," said Matt Hauser, president of the Wisconsin Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association. About 60 percent of consumers prepay for gas, he noted. PDQ's move is in line with recommendations from local law enforcement, according to literature posted at pumps. The company hopes a minor inconvenience will tackle a big problem head-on, especially because there is little recourse in collecting from those committing gas thefts.

A Madison Police Department spokesperson confirmed that officers no longer respond to gas drive-offs because the crime is preventable—by requiring customers to prepay.

"These are all individually owned and operated. They're individual owners who have a brand agreement with these major oil company suppliers—and in the case of PDQ, [the company] is actually 100 percent employee-owned, so I'm sure it's very frustrating for these employee owners to experience losses due to gas theft," Hauser said in the report.

Drive-offs are a growing and pricey problem. According to a survey of convenience store owners done last year, Wisconsin owners reported a collective loss of almost $2 million due to drive-offs in 2009. Nationwide, retailers lost nearly $90 million a year due to drive-offs.

[Reprinted by permission of Convenience Store News, 2011;]

Since 1983, 36 teenagers and six young adults have been killed in explosions at oil sites. The Chemical Safety Board recently released a video to warn teens about the dangers of exploring oil production sites.

A video begins with the earnest voice of a teenager, reading her own words: “My name is Shawn-Ashlee Davis. I’m a senior at Forrest County Agricultural High School in Mississippi. And on Oct. 31, 2009, two people who were very close to me––and the ones I loved––died in an instant. Was it a car crash? No. It was an oil tank explosion.”

Told through the eyes and voices of grieving and concerned parents, friends and local officials, the newest U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) safety video, No Place to Hang Out: The Danger of Oil Sites, tells the story of the tragic deaths of 18-year-old Wade White and 16-year-old Devon Byrd––both were killed Oct. 31, 2009, when an oil tank, located in a clearing in the woods near the home of one of the boys in the rural town of Carnes, Miss., suddenly exploded.

The 11-minute video is available on, on YouTube and on DVD. A free copy can be requested from the CSB online video room.

In the video, Davis speaks for other teenagers searching for ways to prevent these recurring accidents. She asks, “Why? How? We wanted answers. We wanted the truth. And now we want to make a difference.”

Teenagers and adults who were interviewed say it is a common practice in rural areas for young people to hang out and socialize at oil production sites. “It’s like our own little sanctuary where we can just be away from everybody,” said Cody Hunt, 18, one of the teens featured in the video. Hunt goes on to warn other teens, “It’s not worth going out and losing your life over it.”

Teenagers and parents stated they were unaware of the dangers of getting close to oil tanks and their flammable contents, which can ignite causing powerful explosions. The oil site where the fatal blast occurred had no fences, barriers, gates, warning signs or other security measures and was normally unattended. Although some states and localities require the fencing and securing of oil sites, the CSB could not identify any federal, state or local requirement or specific industry guidance for securing the oil site in Carnes.

A CSB review of published news accounts indicates 36 teenagers and six young adults have perished in similar explosions at oil sites resulting from the ignition of flammable vapor since 1983. Recent multiple-fatality accidents include a 2003 explosion in Long Lake, Texas, that killed four teenagers; a 2005 explosion that killed two 19- and 20-year old men in Ripley, Okla.; a 2007 explosion in Mercedes, Texas, that killed three teenagers; and a 2007 explosion in Routt National Forest, Colo., that killed two teenagers. Often, a modest ignition source like a match, cigarette or lighter was all it took to ignite a devastating tank explosion.

Speaking for the three-member Chemical Safety Board, Board Member William B. Wark said, “The Board urges oil and gas production companies, state legislatures and regulators to ensure that oil and gas tank sites are properly secured and have appropriate warning signs to discourage entry. We also urge parents and teachers to educate teens about the potentially deadly risk from these sites.”

[Source: U.S. Chemical Safety Board]