Fall 2011 Volume 53
As a small business owner, Jim owes much of his success to being a risk taker. He took a risk when he gave up a full-time job in banking to pursue his interest in information technology. He took another risk when he invested in the machinery needed for his business. He took even more risks when he purchased a building and hired employees. For small business owners like Jim, risk taking is a part of being in business for yourself. “So is risk reduction,” advises EMC Risk Improvement Engineer Andy Benson, who helps small business owners integrate safety into their workplace.
Smaller establishments have a higher rate of workplace deaths and serious injuries than larger establishments, according to a study by the RAND Center for Health and Safety in the Workplace. That’s because larger companies typically have the resources to employ a full-time risk manager, whose sole responsibility is to focus on reducing the incidence and severity of workplace losses. “That simply is not the norm for small business owners, who more than likely have to add safety to their list of other responsibilities,” notes Benson. “And let’s face it, those owners did not get into business to promote safety.”
Make Safety Part Of Your Small Business Culture
A former small business owner himself, Benson offers the following risk reduction tips:
- Stress safety wherever and whenever you can—Make sure employees know safety is important to the success of your operation. Talk about it during orientation and follow through with training, safety posters and materials available from EMC and other sources.
- Don’t assume employees know how to use tools—Even everyday tools like hammers and shovels can result in accidents. Employees may know how to use them, but they need to know the right way to use them.
- Keep your eyes open—Always keep an eye out for potential problems that may result in accidents—everything from slippery floors to malfunctioning equipment. When you spot something wrong, correct the problem as quickly as possible.
- Teach your employees to say “no”—If they don’t think they can complete a job in a safe manner, employees need to know they will not be reprimanded for saying “no”.
Take Advantage Of Small Business Loss Control Resources
“The cost for integrating these and other risk reduction techniques into your small business is not that expensive,” comments Benson. “Especially when compared to the cost associated with an accident or OSHA citation,” he adds.
Contact your EMC agent or visit the Loss Control section at www.emcins.com to access these services, which are available at no additional cost to EMC policyholders. Small business loss control ideas are also available from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (www.osha.com) and the Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov).
Recordkeeping Help For Employers
Have questions about whether employee injuries are recordable? The OSHA Recordkeeping Advisor presents questions and determines the appropriate course of action based on your responses. The service does not store any information and is available to you online, 24/7, at www.dol.gov/elaws/OSHArecordkeeping.htm.
Older Workers Take Longer To Return To Work After Injury
Though older workers tend to have similar or lower injury/illness rates when compared to younger workers, they also take longer to return to the workplace after an injury, according to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The data comes from the “Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses” from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can view the study at www.cdc.gov and search for “Nonfatal Occupational Injuries and Illnesses Among Older Workers.”
Noisy Workplaces And Heart Disease
Employees who worked in noisy workplaces were two to three times more likely to have serious heart problems than employees in quiet workplaces, according to a study published by the Journal of Occupational and Environment Medicine. Researchers noted that loud noise may cause as much stress as sudden emotion or physical exertion, which causes chemical responses that constrict blood flow in the coronary arteries. The study reconfirms the value of hearing protection devices for employees exposed to noisy workplaces.
You typically don’t think of an office setting as a dangerous work zone, but it is. In 2008, more than 80,000 private industry office and administrative workers suffered on-the-job injuries, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
EMC loss control specialists encourage you to look for the following risks in your office setting and take appropriate action to increase the safety of your employees:
- Arrange office furnishings to provide workers with unobstructed areas for movement.
- Make sure stairways are well-illuminated and kept in good condition.
- Mark any differences in floor levels that could result in a fall.
- Keep walkways clear of cords, clutter and spills.
- Use stepladders rather than chairs to reach high objects.
- Use full-spectrum lights to reduce eyestrain.
- Use task lighting where possible to direct light to where it is needed most.
- Reduce monitor glare by using plasma screens or removable anti-glare screens.
- Reduce sun glare with window blinds or tinted glass.
- If possible, relocate noisy equipment away from workers.
- Use carpeting to help absorb foot traffic and conversational noise.
- Incorporate partitions to reduce noise around workstations.
- Be sure workers know how to adjust chairs to eliminate strain.
- Reduce the possibility of low back strain by using footrests.
- Position computer monitors with the top of the screen at eye level.
- Reduce excessive reaching by placing the computer mouse close to the keyboard.
From on-site inspections to online training, Count on EMC® to help you reduce the hazards lurking around your office.
Today, very few businesses or individuals have sufficient cash or financial reserves to protect themselves against the hundreds of potential property and liability exposures they face. What those exposures are, what their dollar value is and how much protection is enough are thorny questions. That is why an insurance agent is so important in helping you cover all the bases.
The professional independent insurance agent has been trained in risk analysis. He or she is familiar with the insurance coverages and financial strategies available in your state and with the regulations that govern them. With this expertise, your agent can point out exposures you may overlook. He or she can suggest options from a vast menu of risk management strategies and amend a basic policy by adding special coverages and endorsements. The resulting policy will be custom tailored to your business’s unique protection needs.
When purchasing insurance, remember to:
- Cover your largest loss exposure first
- Use the highest deductible you can afford
- Avoid duplication of insurance
- Buy in the largest units of insurance possible, like package policies suitable to your needs
- Review your insurance program periodically to ensure your coverage is adequate
“When it comes to loss control, experience is often the best teacher,” says EMC Risk Improvement Engineer Andy Benson. “Unfortunately, small businesses don’t have extensive loss control experiences to draw from.” That’s where EMC can help.
Having worked with commercial clients of every type and size, risk improvement engineers have the experience to identify and analyze possible exposures to loss or liability. “The process is the same whether we’re working with a small or a large business,” notes Benson. EMC engineers:
- Learn about the company’s products and procedures
- Understand the current safety culture of the organization
- Tour the facility to observe workers and the workplace
- Explain some of the ways EMC loss control services might be of value to the company
“From my experience, some companies have learned about safety hazards the hard way,“ notes Benson. “Rather than encouraging companies to simply react to losses, our goal is to help companies be more proactive in their approach to safety by connecting them with the many tools, resources and experiences available from EMC.”
Two new items have been added to EMC's online safety training:
Ladder Safety—Ladders are common in many workplaces, but few employees understand how to use them safely. Help prevent ladder-related injuries with new online training available on EMC’s website. In less than 20 minutes, the training course outlines the most common causes of ladder-related injuries and provides safety tips for the most frequently used types of ladders. A quiz is also available to check for understanding. All you need to view EMC’s online training is an EMC commercial policy number.
ChemEyes: An Introduction—A five-minute primer that answers questions about ChemEyes (a school chemical management program), who can benefit from the program, the structure of the on-site assessment and report and other related information.
For less than $70, you can secure five items commonly found in homes and businesses and avoid one of the most common sources of damage and injury during earthquakes—falling objects. Check out the article, “Reduce Six Common Earthquake Risks for Less Than $70” from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety.
An elementary school was about to replace its two heating boilers until a Hartford Steam Boiler (HSB) inspector asked, “Why replace the boilers when the equipment is in good condition?”
With local budgets tight, Hartford Steam Boiler (HSB) Inspector Richard Schmidt knows the schools he serves have little money to spare for new equipment. So he was surprised to hear that one of these elementary schools was replacing its two heating boilers, which he had recently inspected.
The custodian in another school mentioned the planned purchases when Schmidt was there conducting a jurisdictional inspection. "Why?" Schmidt asked. When he inspected the fire tube steam boilers he had found no operational problems. A contractor hired to reduce energy costs had told the school to remove the boilers. The consultant claimed the units were inefficient and in poor condition, but Schmidt knew better. He found no pressure retaining defects or signs of deterioration. External controls, burner, low water cutout, feed pumps and circulators were all in good working order.
"It didn't make any sense," Schmidt recalled. "I went to the school district office and asked the head of buildings and grounds why that comment was made. I expressed my concern about scrapping the boilers and explained my reasons." Schmidt offered to speak with the energy contractor and school officials to discuss why it would be a waste of money to replace the boilers. Installed in 1998, the boilers were designed to provide many more years of service with proper maintenance.
Weeks later, the building’s superintendent sent a letter to thank HSB and praise Schmidt, who has 31 years experience with HSB and inspects hundreds of school boilers. "While doing his latest inspection, due to his thoroughness, he brought to my attention something that will save our district $50,000 or more," the school official said. "I just wanted to let you know how much he is greatly appreciated."
HSB Knows Equipment
HSB inspectors know their customers and their equipment. When HSB inspectors spot trouble, they will recommend what actions to take, or suggest ways to improve equipment operations, prevent breakdowns and save customers money. HSB inspection service doesn't end there; HSB provides technical information and offers equipment seminars and webinars. Inspectors can also help customers make the right decisions when installing a new boiler or retrofitting an existing boiler.
For these many other reasons, EMC Insurance Companies is proud to partner with Hartford Steam Boiler to provide exceptional service to schools and other institutions. Talk to your loss control representative about how HSB inspectors may be able to save you needless expense.
Disease and infection are constant threats, and K-12 schools are especially at risk. In serious cases, the first response has been to close the school for cleaning. Now, school officials are being urged to rethink cleaning strategies to reduce the risk of disease and focus on prevention rather than reaction.
In late 2007, there were a number of MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) outbreaks in school districts across the country, resulting in at least five student deaths. In 2009, the H1N1 pandemic posed an even greater threat to the health of schools and communities. And every year, seasonal flu hits, often resulting in school closures and worse.
The following recommendations are excerpted from a report, “Cleaning To Reduce The Risk Of H1N1 Flu Virus And Other Diseases,” published by the International Executive Housekeepers Association.
Cleaning For Health
We now know more about how disease spreads, how long germs live in various environments, and how cleaning procedures and tools can impact the healthy environment in a school. As a result, there is a fundamental shift from cleaning for appearance to cleaning for health.
Schools have a new responsibility to provide a healthy, germâ€free environment. This means moving away from the old models of cleaning and adapting new scienceâ€based procedures, tools and products that are proven to reduce the spread of germs. Four key areas of the cleaning program are at issue: what to clean, who shares in the cleaning responsibility, when to clean and measurement.
What To Clean: Focus On The Right Areas
Traditionally, schools have cleaned with the primary purpose of creating a satisfying appearance—“It looks clean. It smells clean. Therefore, it must be clean.” Wrong! Shiny floors, for example, look clean and make a good impression. But, new, affordable testing equipment proves that what we once thought was clean (no visible soil, shiny, etc.), is more likely a haven for germs.
Schools and other facilities typically prioritized floors over common touch points, which are defined as a surface or object, which is touched or handled frequently by the student body and staff. The desktop is an example of a highly-contaminated surface that is often overlooked or minimized in a cleaning program. If not properly cleaned and sanitized, these touch points can serve to spread disease from one person to another. In fact, it is impossible to have a healthy school building if common touch points are not emphasized. The key to minimizing the spread of disease is to clean and sanitize these surfaces frequently.
Who Shares In The Cleaning Responsibility—A Team Effort
It is important to understand that maintaining a healthy school building is not just the responsibility of the custodial department. In fact, most custodial staffs are not sufficient to address the rigors of cleaning for health—especially in a disease outbreak. The most effective healthy school cleaning program will involve the cleaning staff, teaching staff, bus drivers, other school employees—and the students.
When To Clean
As you rethink cleaning, there are two recommended cleaning modes:
- Routine cleaning [preventative cleaning for health]—Includes the procedures for cleaning during normal school sessions, when there is not an outbreak. The objective is to minimize the risk of disease.
- Outbreak cleaning—Shift to more aggressive outbreak cleaning procedures when the illness outbreak in schools reaches 5% of the total student population or 10% of the staff population, if there is any recorded outbreak of a potentially fatal disease—such as H1N1, MRSA, E. coli, bird flu, etc.—or an outbreak has been declared in your region. Outbreak cleaning intensifies the overall cleaning and sanitizing effort and incorporates more extreme measures to address the common touch points throughout the building. During outbreak cleaning, it is absolutely critical that all cleaning and sanitizing efforts are being executed properly, according to the guidelines. It is recommended that each school develop an outbreak prevention and response plan that details the cleaning procedures and practices during school illness outbreaks. The plan should contain procedures, guidelines, responsibilities and checklists to ensure cleaning quality during the outbreak.
Measurement: The Role Of Testing In The New Way To Clean
Testing and measurement are at the core of any education. How do you know if the students are learning if you don’t test? How do you know where to focus and where to assign more resources if you don’t test? Yet, even with this ingrained focus on testing, most schools have no idea how they are performing in providing a healthy, clean environment for learning. Admittedly, until recently, there was not an effective and reliable method for testing cleanliness in the school environment. But now, you can easily and affordably measure Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), the universal energy molecule found in all animal, plant, bacterial, yeast and mold cells.
After cleaning, all sources of ATP should be significantly reduced. Studies have shown however, that this is not always the case, especially when outdated tools like mops and towels are used. Too often, they simply spread germs and crossâ€contaminate instead of cleaning. So although a surface may look clean, the reality may be far from the truth. Testing allows you to prove the effectiveness of your cleaning program.
Remember, Your First Line Of Defense Is Clean Hands
The highest recommendation from the CDC (Center for Disease Control) for fending off disease is a hand care program. Healthcare experts recommend scrubbing your hands vigorously for at least 15 seconds with soap and water—about as long as it takes to recite the alphabet. Students are subject to germs all day, and they are often sent to lunch without washing their hands. Furthermore, hand washing during restroom breaks simply can’t be monitored. Other times, when shared educational tools are handled frequently, teachers should instruct hand washing and sanitizing.
To download a copy of the entire publication, “Cleaning To Reduce The Risk Of H1N1 Flu Virus And Other Diseases,” visit www.ieha.org/documents/Protecting_against_H1N1_IEHA.pdf
[Reprinted with permission from Kaivac, Inc.]
According to federal law, propane cylinders may only be used for 12 years after their manufacture date. Learn approaches you can take to prevent code violations that may lead to a claim or accident.
Over the years of defending gas fire and explosion cases, resulting in personal injuries and property damages, I have seen the repeat of certain themes upon which plaintiff lawyers construct their cases against propane companies.
When it comes to propane cylinders, a common and recurring theme is that the cylinder is refilled and distributed into the stream of commerce after the time permitted by its manufacture or recertification date. This is typically 12 years from the date of manufacture and then at five-year intervals thereafter for recertification. This is for visual recertification. The dates vary for hydrostatic recertification, but that is rarely used from my experience.
The cylinders that enter the stream of commerce beyond the date of certification are rarely, if ever, the source of an actual leak. The valves on the cylinders rarely, if ever, malfunction or leak. Nonetheless, it forms the basis for many claims and safety code violations that can, in some instances, breathe life into a case for a plaintiff, who is legally speaking without merit.
This problem results in huge dollars spent on defending cases and often in huge dollars settling them. This issue is one problem the industry could solve if it simply focused on making sure cylinders were not filled beyond their fill date. How the industry goes about doing this should be open to a healthy debate.
I understand there are cylinders that are bar coded so the information appears on a computer to let a filler know the date of manufacture or last recertification. Some industry representatives keep good logs on cylinders that are recertified. These are good, but so far they are not enough to effectively stamp out this meddlesome and recurring problem.
Here is my thought. How about finding the cylinder manufacture or recertification date and using a stencil of 3- or 4-inch numbers to spray paint this most recent date on the side of all cylinders in your possession? This would make this important date more difficult for anyone refilling your cylinders to miss.
Have someone go out and visibly inspect all of the cylinders in your yard and make sure they are all within certification. Set aside those that are not and get those that are still usable from a visual-inspection standpoint recertified before they are refilled and distributed to customers.
This simple approach to addressing this refilling oversight will help eliminate a code violation that will be presented to your company in the event of a claim or accident. Since entire claims are often based on this violation, this is a proactive way to avoid future claims and lawsuits that have cost considerable time and expense to resolve.
Another problem is that the exchange and refill of these cylinders is not seen as a big-ticket item, so the average marketer doesn’t usually maintain a customer list. This creates a problem in litigation because our clients often believe they did not exchange or refill the actual cylinder involved in a claim or lawsuit.
Sometimes we believe our clients may have filled or exchanged the involved cylinder when it was within its fill date, but by the time of the accident the date on the cylinder is beyond the allowable fill date.
I recommend that customers who exchange or refill cylinders sign a list at the checkout counter indicating the date they filled or exchanged a cylinder with your company. Keep these records for later reference.
The importance of these records could be substantial at the time a claim or lawsuit is filed. The focus should not be on the cash value of the sale but the cost avoidance of the claim or lawsuit that might occur down the road. Instead of focusing on a roughly $20 sale, think in terms of a potential multimillion dollar claim avoidance. If this is not persuasive, nothing could be.
[Reprinted with permission of John V.McCoy, LPGas. John McCoy and his firm represent propane industry members in lawsuits nationally. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800.599.8300.]
Some truck drivers with prior crashes, violations or convictions are more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers with clean records, according to research by the American Transportation Research Institute.
Despite the number of fatal truck crashes falling to their lowest levels in U.S. DOT recorded history in 2009, both industry and government remain convinced there is room for improvement. Reacting to recent research, which has highlighted the pivotal role that driver-related factors play in truck crashes, it is clear that efforts aimed at further reducing preventable crashes must focus in a large part on driver behaviors.
In 2005, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) conducted research identifying specific truck driver behaviors that are most indicative of future truck crash involvement. However, numerous factors could have changed these relationships over the past five years. Therefore, an updated analysis was warranted to discern which truck driver behaviors from the original study continue to hold predictive value in terms of crash involvement.
The main objective of this research was the identification of specific types of driver behaviors (violations, convictions and crashes) that are most highly correlated with future crash involvement. The research team examined to what extent drivers with certain driving records in one year (2008) were more likely to be involved in a truck crash in the following 12 months (2009), compared to drivers who did not have the same violations, convictions or prior crash history.
This study’s findings were based on data from 587,772 U.S. truck drivers. The analysis shows that “failure to use/improper signal” was the leading conviction associated with an increased likelihood of a future crash. When a truck driver was convicted of this offense, the driver’s likelihood of a future crash increased by 96%. Ten additional convictions also were significant crash predictors; of these, eight had an associated crash likelihood increase between 56% and 84%, while two registered between 36% to 40%.
In relation to driver violations, an improper passing violation had the strongest association with crash involvement. Drivers with this violation were 88% more likely than their peers to be involved in a crash. Seven additional violations had significant crash associations, with five ranging in magnitude between 38% and 45%, and two between 18 and 21%.
Finally, the results indicated that drivers who had a past crash also had a significant 88% increase in their likelihood of a future crash.
Overall, the findings in this report suggest that driver interventions and industry innovations are capable of altering the magnitude and even the presence of the linkage between present behaviors and future exposure to crashes. By becoming aware of problem behaviors, carriers and enforcement agencies are able to address those issues before they lead to serious consequences. The converse is also true, however, as lower priority behaviors—if ignored—may begin to play an increasing role in crash involvement.
To receive a copy of this report and other ATRI studies, please visit: www.atri-online.org.
[Source: American Transportation Research Institute]
OSHA announced a three-month enforcement phase-in period to allow residential construction to comply with the agency’s new directive to provide workers with fall protection.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a three-month phase-in period to allow residential construction employers to come into compliance with the agency's new directive to provide residential construction workers with fall protection.
“We want to make sure that the residential construction industry has every opportunity to successfully come into compliance with the new directive,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “I am confident that this phase-in period will provide employers the additional time and flexibility they need to alter their work practices in accordance with the requirements of the new directive.”
The three-month phase-in period began June 16 and will run until Sept. 15, 2011. During this time, if the employer is in full compliance with the old directive (STD 03-00-001), OSHA will not issue citations, but will instead issue a hazard alert letter informing the employer of the feasible methods they can use to comply with OSHA's fall protection standard or implement a written fall protection plan. If the employer's practices do not meet the requirements set in the old directive, OSHA will issue appropriate citations. If an employer fails to implement the fall protection measures outlined in a hazard alert letter, and during a subsequent inspection of one of the employer's workplaces OSHA finds violations involving the same hazards, the Area Office shall issue appropriate citations.
OSHA has a wide variety of resources and guidance materials to assist employers in complying with the new directive. OSHA's web page includes many guidance products, including a fall protection slide show that recently received more than 3,000 hits in one week. Employers are encouraged to take full advantage of OSHA's free on-site consultation program. In addition, there is also a compliance assistance specialist in most area offices, and employers are urged to contact their local area offices and use these services.
Reviewing The New Fall Protection Directive
- Residential construction employers generally must make sure that employees working six feet or more above lower levels use guardrails, safety nets or personal fall arrest systems. A personal fall arrest system may consist of a full-body harness, a deceleration device, a lanyard and an anchor point. (See the definition of “personal fall arrest system” in 29 CFR 1926.500.)
- Other fall protection measures may be used to the extent allowed under other provisions of 29 CFR 1926.501(b) addressing specific types of work. For example, 1926.501(b)(10) permits the use of warning lines and safety monitoring systems during the performance of roofing work on low-sloped roofs.
- OSHA allows the use of an effective fall restraint system in lieu of a personal fall arrest system. To be effective, a fall restraint system must be rigged to prevent a worker from reaching a fall hazard and falling over the edge. A fall restraint system may consist of a full-body harness or body belt that is connected to an anchor point at the center of a roof by a lanyard of a length that will not allow a worker to physically reach the edge of the roof.
- If the employer can demonstrate that the use of conventional fall protection methods is infeasible or creates a greater hazard, it must at least make sure a qualified person creates a written, site-specific fall protection plan in compliance with 29 CFR 1926.502(k) and in that plan, documents the reasons the use of conventional fall protection systems are infeasible or would create a greater hazard.
The new directive interprets “residential construction” as construction work that satisfies both of the following elements:
- The end-use of the structure being built must be a home—for example, a dwelling.
- The structure being built must be constructed using traditional wood frame construction materials and methods. The limited use of structural steel in a predominantly wood-framed home, such as a steel I-beam to help support wood framing, does not disqualify a structure from being considered residential construction.
- Traditional wood frame construction materials and methods will be characterized by framing materials (wood or equivalent cold-formed sheet metal stud framing—not steel or concrete, wooden floor joists and roof structures); exterior wall structure (wood, or equivalent cold-formed sheet metal stud framing or masonry brick or block); and methods (traditional wood frame construction techniques).
Complete details about the fall protection directive is available at www.osha.gov.
The increased use of aerial work platforms has led to accidents in which people have been trapped between the platform and objects in the work area. Learn how such accidents can be prevented through proper planning, preparation and training.
The use of aerial work platforms (AWPs) is increasing as the benefits for productivity and safety are recognized. They are acknowledged by many to be the safest and most efficient means of providing temporary access to height for many work activities. Unfortunately, there have been a number of fatal accidents involving the use of AWPs in which the operator has been crushed against fixtures or other obstacles while working at height. The International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) believes such incidents can be prevented by correct planning, preparation, selection and correct use of appropriate machinery.
To reduce the likelihood of accidents involving AWPs, IPAF has published a U.S. edition of “Best Practices Guidance for AWPs: Avoiding Trapping/Crushing Injuries to People in the Platform.” The guide covers safety topics including planning, equipment selection, provision of information, familiarization, safe use, supervision and rescue procedures.
The following are some of the many safety tips detailed in the document:
- Identify the range of work that is to be done from AWPs and the means by which they will reach the work position. Plan to move hazards as far away as possible to limit reliance on methods of work and operator actions to control risk. In other words, design out hazards as far as possible.
- For all activities, consider what the potential risks might be for operators becoming trapped against objects. You will need to carefully consider the presence of objects against which someone could become trapped at all stages of the work. For example, working in a roof space with many existing obstructions (structural supports/services, etc.) may present a high possibility of an operator becoming trapped.
- Select equipment to minimize the chances of being trapped. In particular, consider any relevant dimensional constraints to, from and at the work position, and choose equipment appropriately—not too small or too big, and with the most appropriate maneuvering characteristics (scissor/telescoping/articulated). The aim should be to select a machine that makes it as difficult as possible for the operator to become trapped.
- Consider the layout and characteristics of the machine control panel and the potential for the operator to be trapped against the controls in the specific work situation for which it has been selected.
- Consider which tools and materials will be needed and plan how they will be Carried or stored on/within the AWP.
- Make sure the ground is properly prepared and maintained on routes to and at working positions.
- Meet with all relevant parties as part of your planning, including others on-site who will affect or be affected by AWP activities.
- Identify and specify the levels of competence/qualification that will be required of those doing the work.
- Make detailed rescue/emergency plans.
[Source: International Powered Access Federation]
Researchers found that cultural factors that promote getting the job done as quickly as possible with whatever resources available lead to an increase in line-of-duty firefighter fatalities.
"Firefighting is always going to be a hazardous activity, but there's a general consensus among firefighting organizations and among scientific organizations that it can be safer than it is," said study co-author David DeJoy, of the Workplace Health Group in the College of Public Health. "As a society, we ought to make the effort to make it safer."
The research, published in the May edition of the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention, examined data gathered from 189 firefighter fatality investigations conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) between 2004 and 2009. Each NIOSH investigation gives recommendations aimed at preventing future firefighter injuries and deaths. The researchers looked at the high-frequency recommendations and linked them to important causal and contributing factors of the fatalities.
The four major causes they identified were under-resourcing, inadequate preparation for adverse events during operations, incomplete adoption of incident command procedures and sub-optimal personnel readiness.
DeJoy and his colleagues analyzed the investigations in terms of the core culture of the firefighting profession. “Firefighting culture should not be construed as one of negligence,” said DeJoy, “but one based on a long-standing tradition of acceptance of risk. A job that relies on extreme individual efforts and has too few resources leads to the chronic condition of doing too much with too little,” he said.
"If you get used to taking risks, it's easy to take a little more risk," DeJoy said. "Most of the time when we take risks, like walking across the street or driving a car, nothing bad happens. This level of risk gets ratcheted up and becomes part of normal activity." Acceptance of risk becomes extremely perilous in a situation in which adverse events can happen at any time and margins of safety are very thin, he added.
“Firefighter deaths dropped in the 1970s and 1980s, largely due to improvements in protective clothing, breathing equipment and radio communication,” explained DeJoy. In the last decades, fatality numbers actually edged upward, while the number of fires has gone down. On average, more than 100 firefighters die on the job in the United States each year, which is three times higher than the fatality rate for the general working population. "There's a lot of interest to see what is going on," DeJoy said.
The No. 1 cause of death identified in the study was not smoke inhalation or traumatic injury, but cardiovascular events. Eighty-seven of the 213 deaths examined in the study were cardiac-related. Deaths from cardiovascular events resulted in two predominant recommendations from the researchers: the need for improvements in medical screening and the need for wider adoption of mandatory fitness/wellness programming.
“Many of the recommendations can be traced to a lack of finances,” said DeJoy. “Not only does under-resourcing affect the ability of a fire department to acquire innovative technology, it can lead to a shortage of personnel at a fire, compromising rapid intervention and the ability to maintain command and control functions during operations.”
DeJoy acknowledged that there is a certain amount of subjective interpretation that goes into analyzing incident investigations. In addition, NIOSH investigations are not mandatory and can be refused by a fire department. NIOSH also mostly investigates deaths involving career—or paid—firefighters, although a majority of firefighters in the United States are volunteers, and a majority of line-of-duty deaths involve volunteers. DeJoy said he hopes NIOSH will do more investigations of volunteer firefighter fatalities, as those organizations may have the greatest need for evaluation and technical assistance.
[Source: University of Georgia Office of Public Affairs]
Backing accidents cause 500 deaths and 15,000 injuries per year. The use of safe vehicle backing tips by employers and employees can help prevent accidents while on the job.
In Arizona, a 79-year-old man was killed after being backed over by a waste collection vehicle. The helpers were further up the street at the time of the accident and the driver was using his mirrors to back the truck. The truck had a working backing alarm. This, and other recent accidents confirm the fact that backing a vehicle, especially a truck larger than a van, is the most dangerous type of driving you will do on any given day. Straight trucks, dump trucks, bucket trucks, refuse trucks and utility trucks all have very large blind spots. Drivers need the help of a "spotter" to back up safely.
The Municipal Association of South Carolina suggests that their members consider the following procedures when backing any vehicle larger than a pickup truck or mini-van.
- Use spotters whenever driving forward involves movement near lateral, overhead or other obstructions.
- All employees, regardless of whether they are certified to drive, must perform spotting duties where necessary.
- If the driver is alone in the vehicle, he may make the backing maneuver without a spotter while taking reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of the maneuver.
- The driver should not perform backing maneuvers if he/she does not reasonably believe that he/she can safely make the maneuver. Precautions may include, but are not limited to exiting the vehicle and making a visual inspection of the surrounding area; checking rearview mirrors and back-up camera if vehicle is equipped; and activating a warning horn and making sure back-up alarm is working.
- The driver and the spotter should discuss the proposed maneuver before the driver begins and use highly visible and obvious hand signals at all times. The driver and the spotter should agree upon hand signals before beginning the maneuver.
- The spotter should maintain eye contact with the driver using the mirror even if the spotter has to change positions frequently to do so.
- The spotter should continue to signal even when the driver’s maneuver is unchanging or proceeding normally. The spotter should not signal just when something different needs to happen or when the driver needs to stop.
- If the spotter needs to stop spotting momentarily for any reason, he/she should make sure the driver stops the vehicle. The driver should resume the maneuver only after spotting is resumed.
- The spotter should maintain a safe distance or position from the vehicle while spotting and make sure there are no obstructions to his/her walking path before beginning the maneuver.
- The spotter should use hand signals, not verbal signals. In an emergency, the spotter should use both hand signals and a verbal warning.
- If the driver is unclear at any point about the spotter’s signals, he/she should stop the vehicle immediately. The driver should resume the maneuver once he/she has clarified the signals with the spotter.
- The driver should stop the vehicle if he/she looks away from the spotter for any reason, including checking the other mirror.
- The spotter should concentrate on spotting â€“ not talking to someone in the vicinity.
Standard Signals For Spotters
- Straight back — One hand above the head with palm toward face, waving back; other hand at side.
- Turn — Both arms pointing the same direction with index fingers extended.
- Stop — Both arms crossed with hands in fists. Reinforce this signal by yelling the stop order loud enough so the driver can hear.
[Reprinted with permission by the Municipal Association of South Carolina, 2011]