Spring 2013 Volume 59

Feature Articles

Bruce Kelly

In the first comprehensive review of its kind since 1992, a UC Davis researcher has estimated the national annual cost of occupational injuries and illnesses at $250 billion, much higher than generally assumed. The study strongly suggests that the U.S. should place greater emphasis on reducing work-related injuries and illnesses, especially because the costs have risen by more than $33 billion (inflation adjusted) since the 1992 analysis.

In response to this and other studies about workplace injuries, EMC Insurance Companies continues to invest almost twice as much on loss control services than other insurance companies. We anticipate our return on that investment will be a safer workplace for employees and cost savings for our policyholders.

Injury and accident prevention has been an integral part of EMC’s commitment to policyholders since the company was founded in 1911. Today, policyholders Count on EMC® for a variety of loss control services and information provided in-person by loss control professionals in our Home Office and at all 16 branch offices, and online through a robust Loss Control section at www.emcins.com.

Bruce G. Kelley, J.D., CPCU, CLU
President and CEO
EMC Insurance Companies

Bryon Snethen, vice president/risk improvement, provided the following data demonstrating the importance and success of EMC loss control programs during 2012:

  • 16,000+ safety surveys conducted by risk improvement representatives
  • 200,000 people visited the Loss Control section at www.emcins.com
  • 58 school districts in the Midwest took advantage of EMC’s ChemEyes program to help reduce accidents related to the improper handling and storage of hazardous chemicals
  • 3,000 safety signs and posters ordered by policyholders
  • 45,000 policyholders and agents received Loss Control Insights four times a year

New Chemical Information Tool for Workers
Workers wanting safer workplaces now have a tool to help them—the Chemical Hazard and Alternatives Toolbox (ChemHAT) database. This free online database was designed in consultation with workers who deal with hazardous chemicals every day. ChemHAT allows workers to quickly look up 10,000 commonly used chemicals and see their acute and chronic health effects. For more information, visit www.chemhat.org.

Reducing Security Breaches
Recent research validates what most security professionals already know—security breaches are on the rise. However, what may be news to them is that some 92 percent of security breaches are actually avoidable. According to the security team at Druva, a variety of technologies could save U.S. businesses some $44 billion in security breaches, not to mention the productivity and time savings associated with recovering from a breach. To learn more, visit www.druva.com/blog/2012/08/15/security-breaches-are-on-the-rise-but-preventable.

Protect Workers From Cadmium Exposure
OSHA estimates that 300,000 workers are exposed to cadmium in the United States Workers may be exposed during smelting and refining of metals and manufacturing and/or recycling batteries, plastics, coatings and solar panels. A new online tool from OSHA helps protect workers exposed to cadmium. The Cadmium Biological Monitoring Advisor is primarily intended for use by experienced medical professionals who assess workers’ cadmium exposure. It may also be useful as an educational tool for workers and members of the general public by providing information on what constitutes overexposure to cadmium and what to do to prevent exposure on the job. For more information, visit www.osha.gov/SLTC/cadmium/index.html.

School

The school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary was an unprecedented act of violence and a sobering reminder of life’s fragile nature. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the grieving families and community who are coping with this loss. In this time of uncertainty, we’re also thinking about school districts across the country that are scrambling to evaluate their security policies. Though schools are still statistically one of the safest places a young person can be, we can always do more. Schools must implement a cross-functional set of controls combined with a robust security culture.

  • Establish Student/Staff Communications and Trust. Students may observe or overhear concerning material, but they don’t know how to report it or don’t want to be identified as the reporter. Overcoming these barriers is important because many perpetrators of school violence (93 percent, according to a joint report from the Secret Service and Department of Education) display behavior prior to the incident. Staff members should also be alert to stressors in students’ lives, as 98 percent of school violence perpetrators had experienced a real or perceived loss in their lives before the incident.
  • Control Building Access. Perimeter doors should be locked at all times. Visitors and vendors should be allowed in through a controlled process. Controlling access can be as minimal as installing a doorbell and an intercom, or it can be as elaborate as an integrated video/intercom/door release system.
  • Implement Emergency Lockdown Procedures. It’s a best practice to have three levels of lockdown to accommodate the various situations you may encounter.

    Clear the Halls: Used during medical emergencies or locker searches when you want to limit student and staff traffic in the halls.
    Exterior Lockdown: Protects students and staff from outdoor incidents that occur on or near school property.
    Lockdown: Used for dangerous interior or exterior situations that could impact staff and students at any time.

  • Create Layers of Security. Place additional barriers between violent individuals and your students. Options include installing lockable doors in all classrooms or providing a securable safe room for those areas without a door.
  • Practice Makes Perfect. Once you have security policies, procedures and programs in place, you must train all staff members and students so they understand both the procedures and their specific roles. Conduct tabletop exercises of security-related items regularly to keep staff members sharp and to discover ways to make your programs better. Once you have most of the bugs worked out of your program, you can conduct drills.

The following resources may be helpful for schools creating or updating their security and incident response policies. For more information on school security, visit us at www.emcins.com/losscontrol or use your web browser to search for “EMC Loss Control.”

School Security: Access Control
School Security: Electronic Surveillance
School Security: Visitor Program
Administrative Sample Crisis Response Plan
School Emergency Response Quick Reference Guide
Support Staff Sample Crisis Response Plan
Teacher Sample Crisis Response Plan

Although his business card reads senior engineer, EMC’s Chris Murphy considers himself an investment adviser. He encourages policyholders to invest in appropriate ergonomic measures to reduce losses, thus improving their bottom line. Recently, he helped a manufacturer realize an annual savings of about $100,000 by investing in ergonomics.

Based on past losses, Murphy noticed the client was spending well over $150,000 per year on ergonomic–related injuries. Murphy helped form an ergonomics committee to identify and evaluate problem jobs, and the necessary actions were taken to control risk factors. According to Murphy, some of the actions were completed in as little as five minutes with an investment of as little as $5, others required a $1,000 investment in equipment.

Investing in ergonomics pays off in more ways than one, notes Murphy. There are quantifiable measurements such as a reduction in injuries and the financial implications of those injuries. “I have also reviewed studies that link ergonomic improvements to reduced absenteeism, employee retention, product quality and employee morale.”

When considering an investment in ergonomics, Murphy is quick to point out that the past is the best predictor of the future. “If you are consistently experiencing a high frequency or severity of musculoskeletal disorders, ergonomics is probably a wise investment for your organization.” Murphy and other EMC risk engineers are ready to help you maximize that investment.

Three Inexpensive Ergonomic Investments

  1. Eliminate lifts from below the knees or above shoulders. This might mean putting a box on a stack of pallets to get it raised up to a more comfortable level.
  2. Use the right tool for the job. A hammer will always be less expensive to replace than an injured hand when it’s used it in place of a hammer.
  3. Use anti-fatigue mats. Standing on hard surfaces like concrete can reduce blood circulation and lead to fatigue. A softer surface can be helpful for workers who stand for most of their day, even if they cannot be on the mats all the time.
forklift hammer foot_mat

Other Topics

Chris Murphy

Mobile apps are changing the way risk improvement professionals are evaluating and controlling risk factors. EMC Senior Engineer Chris Murphy reviews some of the apps that can be of value to your workplace safety efforts.

LiftRight: This free app from EMC makes it easier to use the NIOSH Lifting Equation in analyzing the safety of lifting tasks. Read more here.

First Aid & CPR: Developed by the American Heart Association, this app provides quick, concise and clear first aid and CPR instructions that can help a user save a life in the event of an emergency. The app includes videos and high-resolution illustrations.

SafetyNet: This safety software solution automates the collection of workplace safety data and performs advanced and predictive analytics to identify trends that can affect workers’ safety.

Heat Illness App: Developed by OSHA, this app allows users to measure their risk of heat-related injuries and illness. It offers training on signs and symptoms of heat-related illness and even reminds users about taking breaks and staying properly hydrated.

The NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards: This app is a source of general industrial hygiene information on several hundred chemicals. It is a must-have for every safety professional or industrial hygienist, serving as a valuable reference guide for anyone who works with hazardous chemicals in the workplace.

Contact your EMC risk improvement specialist for more information about the availability of these apps and other tools that can help reduce workplace accidents.

ipohne App

Lower back pain and injuries attributed to manual lifting activities continue to be one of the leading occupational health and safety issues in workplaces across the nation. In order to assist employers in reducing the risk of lifting-related injuries, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) developed a lifting equation designed to determine the safety of lifting tasks.

LiftRight, a free app from EMC Insurance Companies, now makes it easier than ever to use the NIOSH Lifting Equation to analyze the safety of lifting tasks. Just enter your lift data and let LiftRight perform the calculations for you.

LiftRight is currently available on the App Store for iPhone and iPad. An Android version is coming soon.

Insights Online

Schools

As artistic installations, orchestra pits and stages are often considered exempt from local building codes. However, they are still classified as open-sided floors and floor openings and should be guarded to protect performers and audience members from falls.

During a recent school safety survey, EMC Risk Improvement Engineer Andy Benson was asked about the need for fall protection for an orchestra pit. After doing some research, Benson discovered that a ballet troop was fined by OSHA after a 17-year-old girl sustained serious injuries after a fall off a theater stage into the orchestra pit. The citation was issued for having an open-sided floor with a drop of over four feet unprotected by railings or other safety materials.

According to Benson, every open-sided floor or platform of four feet or more above an adjacent floor or ground level should be guarded with a secure railing or proper installation of an orchestra pit safety net. In addition, he offers the following suggestions to help protect schools from orchestra pit fall accidents and possible citations:

  • Workers, actors and musicians on stage should wear appropriate slip resistant foot wear, especially when near unprotected floor edges.
  • Stage floors should be treated or maintained with a high-traction surface, free of unexpected changes in elevation.
  • The edge of the stage and pit perimeter should be visually contrasting, either by color or texture.
  • Consider using footlights to mark the leading edge of the stage and pit during performances.
  • Designate fall protection monitors with the sole responsibility of warning individuals if they are too close to the edge of the stage and/or pit.
  • Plan choreography a safe distance from the leading edge of the stage and pit.
  • Whenever possible, stage decorations or props should not be used to mark appropriate safety zones.
  • Prior to and during the first week of rehearsals with an orchestra in the pit, warn and observe so they maintain a safe distance from the leading edge of the stage and pit.

Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation to strengthen concussion education across youth and high school sports. In support of this effort, all Riddell football helmets include a tag that lists concussion signs and symptoms, including guidelines on what to do if a concussion is suspected.

Riddell Sports and USA Football are partnering to educate athletes and parents about concussion awareness. Starting in late spring 2012, every new Riddell football helmet shipped to retailers and customers includes a hangtag offering concussion education information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Heads Up program.

Riddell’s concussion education hangtag is the first of its kind among sports helmet manufacturers. “We have a long-standing commitment to player protection and continue to look for new ways to educate athletes and parents. As the leading manufacturer of football helmets, Riddell has raised concussion awareness through on-helmet labels and informational hangtags for over a decade,” said Dan Arment, president of Riddell. “The new hangtag contains valuable information from the CDC and is the latest example of how Riddell will address concussion awareness with athletes and parents.”

Approximately three million American children age 6-14 play organized tackle football, placing it among the country’s most popular youth sports. Since May 2009, 35 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation to strengthen concussion education across youth and high school sports. Riddell’s new hangtag will be attached to each helmet through an ear hole. The tag is titled “Raise Your Concussion Awareness” and lists concussion signs and symptoms, including CDC guidelines on what to do if a concussion is suspected. “Riddell shares USA Football’s commitment to player safety and concussion awareness,” USA Football Executive Director Scott Hallenbeck said.

“Every parent who has a child playing youth football should ask their league two questions: ‘How are your coaches trained to teach my child?’ and ‘Are your coaches educated on the symptoms and management of concussions?’ Helmet hangtags will make certain that Riddell customers have baseline knowledge in this area and are directed on where they can learn more online.” Riddell is the official football helmet and protective equipment partner of USA Football, the sport’s national governing body in the United States. USA Football has partnered with the CDC to advance concussion education since 2007, particularly in high school and youth football.

Source: Riddell Sports

Petroleum Marketers

A new product labeling standard for flooring will help address the growing problem of slips and falls. A traction level gauge on the label of commercial and household flooring products informs buyers about the slip risk associated with the flooring they are considering.

In an effort to better inform commercial-and-household-flooring-product consumers, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) B101 Committee on Slip, Trip and Fall Prevention published a new product labeling standard, ANSI/NFSI B101.5-2012.

According to Russell Kendzior, B101 committee secretary and chairman and president of the National Floor Safety Institute: “In the past, floor covering consumers have had no way of knowing whether or not a particular floor was slippery and thus appropriate for use in high-risk areas such as bathrooms or kitchens; with the new product labeling standard, consumers can now be better informed as to the slip risk at the time of purchase.”

The new label resembles an automobile gasoline gauge and identifies three traction levels: “high-traction, moderate-traction, or low-traction.” Each level is based on test results as measured by the ANSI/NFSI B101.1-2009 wet SCOF test method. High-traction floors represent the least risk of a slip-and-fall event while low-traction floors present the highest risk.

“A growing number of floor covering manufacturers and retailers are stepping up to address the growing slip-and-fall problem and have supported this new labeling system. Consumers only need to look for the traction label on product packaging to know whether or not the floor they are looking to purchase is appropriate for their use.“ For additional information, visit www.nfsi.org.

Source: National Floor Safety Institute

Employees who work alone or in isolation tend to be more vulnerable than those who have coworkers present. Canada-based WorkSafeBC offers helpful advice to protect these workers from injuries, stress and other emergency situations associated with working alone, particularly during late night hours.

Employees who work alone face an increased risk of confrontations or even violence. Even if an incident doesn’t lead to a physical confrontation, it can still be stressful or emotionally traumatic for the worker.

Canada-based WorkSafeBC offers the following tips to protect late night workers:

  • Keep all outside areas well lit.
  • Designate a well-lit parking spot close to the building for late night workers to park.
  • Ensure that back doors are locked from the outside when not in use (but don’t violate local fire codes).
  • Keep doors and windows free of posters to ensure a clear line of sight.
  • Lower shelving units so workers have a clear line of sight to all parts of your business.
  • Install overhead mirrors so workers can see all parts of the store from the cash register area.
  • Raise the area where your cash register is located. Keep counter-top displays to a minimum.
  • Build the counter high and deep enough to provide some physical distance from threatening individuals.
  • Install a panic or emergency alarm for workers.
  • Regularly check on workers who are working alone. Consider providing workers with an automatic warning device that triggers if movement or signals are not detected within a set time.
  • Post signs that state that cash is kept to a minimum on the premises or cash is locked in a safe.
  • Install security cameras and advertise their presence.
  • Identify areas where workers can safely retreat and call for help.
  • Train workers to lock all the doors and windows check and that no one is in the washroom or storage room before one person is left to work alone.
  • Organize specific work tasks that may place a worker at risk of injury from violence so those tasks will be completed when there is more than one employee working.

For additional advice on protecting late night workers and others who work alone, download the booklet, Working Alone, A Handbook for Small Business, at www.worksafebc.com/publications/health_and_safety/by_topic/assets/pdf/bk131.pdf.

Source: WorkSafeBC

Contractors

In addition to promoting a safer, more productive workplace, drug testing can help to decrease employee turnover and absenteeism, reduce employer risk and lower workers’ compensation incidence rates.

An effective drug testing program promotes a safe, productive workplace in addition to a multitude of other benefits, according to a recent industry poll. This article explores the many advantages of employee drug testing and illustrates how a program's effectiveness is directly impacted by quickly evolving industry trends and federal testing legislation.

How Effective is Drug Testing?

Employment drug testing is a powerful risk management tool that provides far-reaching organizational benefits. In addition to promoting a safer, more productive workplace, it can help to decrease employee turnover and absenteeism, reduce employer risk, and lower workers' compensation incidence rates, according a recent poll conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association (DATIA). The poll, one of the most comprehensive and current surveys regarding drug testing available today, questioned employers ranging from 500 to 2,500 employees, most of which were publicly owned, for-profit organizations. The following key points were discovered:

  • More than half of the organizations (57 percent) indicated they conduct drug testing on all job candidates. More than one-quarter (29 percent) of the organizations do not have a pre-employment drug testing program.
  • In organizations with high employee absenteeism rates (more than 15 percent), the implementation of a drug testing program appears to have an impact. Nine percent of organizations reported high absenteeism rates (more than 15 percent) prior to a drug testing program, whereas only four percent of organizations reported high absenteeism rates after the implementation of a drug testing program, a decrease of approximately 50 percent.
  • In organizations with high workers' compensation incidence rates (more than 6 percent), the implementation of a drug testing program appears to have an impact. Fourteen percent of organizations reported high workers' compensation incidence rates prior to a drug testing program, whereas only six percent of organizations reported similar rates of workers' compensation after the implementation of a drug testing program, a decrease of approximately 50 percent.
  • Nearly one-fifth (19 percent) of organizations experienced an increase in productivity after the implementation of a drug testing program.
  • Sixteen percent of organizations saw a decrease in employee turnover rates after the implementation of drug testing programs.

Maintaining Program Efficacy

Just as there are many types of drug testing programs, ranging from those regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to privately developed and managed programs, there are also many testing options available today. However, in order to create the most appropriate and effective testing program, you must first understand what's happening in the industry.

The drug testing industry was born 30 years ago, after the launch of federal drug testing requirements in the 1980s. A lot has changed in 30 years. The types of drugs being abused are quickly evolving, and so are the abusers.

While marijuana is still the number one most-abused drug globally, prescription drugs have moved into second place, overshadowing cocaine. Technology has played a big role in these changes. For example, the street distributor has morphed into the Internet distributor, making it easier than ever to access prescription medication without ever visiting a doctor.The use of pill mills, which are clinics, doctors, or pharmacies that are prescribing large amounts of prescription medication for nonmedical use, is also becoming prominent in the United States, prompting abusers to travel across state lines to access these mills.

New federal legislation and program guidelines have been created with these trends in mind. For example, in addition to standard illicit drugs, prescription medication and designer drugs must now be considered for testing. Just two years ago, the DOT expanded its standard test panel to include Ecstasy as part of the amphetamines drug panel and also lowered cutoff levels of testing for amphetamines and cocaine. The result was as expected: DOT-regulated programs are seeing an increase in positives for both categories.

Now, the U.S. government is enhancing its program even further. A breakthrough this year has been the approval by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services of the recommendations made by the Drug Test Advisory Board (DTAB), which include testing for synthetic opiates such as hydrocodone and oxycodone, also known as Vicodin or Oxycontin, by their brand names. Additionally, DTAB recommended using oral fluid testing as an alternative testing method. Implementing these recommendations could take the DOT years, but this is a big first step in modifying the federal drug testing program.

Designer drugs such as synthetic marijuana and synthetic amphetamines are also on the federal government's radar such as K2/Spice and Bath Salts. Obama signed the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012 into law on July 9, 2012, as part of S. 3187, the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act. The legislation bans synthetic compounds commonly found in synthetic marijuana ("K2" or "Spice"), synthetic stimulants ("Bath Salts"), and hallucinogens by placing them under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.

This new law will make it easier for law enforcement agencies to take action against the manufacturers, importers and sellers of these products. While this represents progress in the battle against synthetic drugs, authorities must continue to monitor and update the list of prohibited substances as manufacturers modify the composition of the drugs to circumvent legislation. Some employers have begun testing for these types of drugs in reasonable cause situations.

While DOT and most nonregulated employers use a standard 5 panel drug screen which tests for PCP, marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines/amphetamines and opiates, these changes in prescription and designer drug abuse are creating a legitimate opportunity for employers to expand their testing to include additional drugs. For example, LexisNexis Occupational Health Services, Inc. a large third party administrator, notes that its manufacturing customers are moving to a nine-panel test. An effective drug testing program promotes a safe, productive workplace. By monitoring industry trends, you can maintain your program effectiveness by understanding which drugs are being abused and modifying your testing panel based on that information. Likewise, laws and regulations will help dictate what can be tested and how that testing should be conducted.

It is always recommended that employers retain internal or external legal counsel specializing in drug testing to review drug and alcohol testing laws in the states where their applicants and employees reside, and states where they have physical locations. An organization such as DATIA is also a great resource to help you stay updated on drug testing industry trends and legislation. Visit the website www.datia.org to learn more about DATIA and membership opportunities.

Reprinted with permission by Occupational Health and Safety, www.ohsonline.com, an 1105 Media Inc. publication.

Falls are among the most common causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths. Worker safety is imperative, and developing and implementing a fall protection program not only prevents injuries, but also could save lives. In addition, regulatory agencies have increased fines for noncompliance with fall protection standards.

According to 2009 data compiled from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 605 workers were killed and an estimated 212,760 were seriously injured by falls to the same or lower level. Fall injuries constitute a considerable financial burden for employers and injured employees; workers’ compensation and medical costs associated with occupational fall incidents have been estimated at approximately $70 billion annually in the United States.

While there are a number of reasons why many companies are not meeting today’s requirements for fall protection, the fact remains that employers have a legal and ethical obligation to protect their people. There are five key points to consider when implementing a fall protection program. These points can help guide a decision, especially if you’re considering implementing a personal fall arrest system.

Point One: The 4-Foot Rule or "Do I Need Protection?"

Employers have a duty to provide workers with a place of employment free from recognized safety and health hazards. OSHA enforces regulation 1926, Subpart M for construction, and regulation 1910, Subparts D and F for general industry, which require fall protection be provided at 4 feet in general industry, 5 feet in shipyards, 6 feet in the construction industry, 8 feet in longshoring operations or at any height if working over dangerous equipment and machinery. If you have workers working at or above these heights in the circumstances described, then you legally are required to implement a suitable fall protection system.

Point Two: Elimination or Protection?

Once a fall hazard has been identified, there essentially are two options: eliminate the hazard or protect against it. In some cases, it is possible to eliminate a fall hazard through engineering controls by changing the working environment, processes and procedures. If this is not possible, fall prevention should be the next consideration.

Common fall prevention methods include installing guardrails, scaffolds, handrails or barriers. When passive fall protection solutions such as elimination or prevention are not practical, personal fall protection equipment, such as harnesses, lanyards and retractable lifelines, can be used. Personal fall protection may consist of a restraint system to keep the worker from reaching an area where a fall hazard exists, or a personal fall arrest system that enables a worker to perform their duties from the height required, while tied off to the system.

A restraint system prevents the worker from falling. You can restrain a worker by fitting them with a harness with a tether attached. A fixed-length lanyard is then attached to the D-ring on the harness and to a code-compliant anchorage system. Fall restraint systems are typically the preferred fall protection system because a fall is completely avoided. However, there are many environments where it’s not optimal. Restraint systems don’t tend to be very flexible once they’re in place, they don’t always handle multiple workers well and the length of the system may be limited.

Fall arrest systems, when used with a properly rated full-body harness and connecting device, stop the fall in a controlled manner. The system should be professionally engineered and custom designed for the specific work environment.

Point Three: The ABCs of a Fall Arrest System

There is an easy way to remember the components of a proper fall arrest system, which are anchorage, body support and connecting device (ABC).

Anchorage is a secure point to attach a lifeline, lanyard, deceleration device or any other fall arrest or rescue system, to an anchorage point such as structural steel members, precast concrete beams and wooden trusses. An anchorage connector is used as a safe means of attachment for the lanyard or lifeline to the anchorage, for example, cable and synthetic slings, roof anchors and beam clamps.

Proper body support in a fall arrest system requires a body harness. A body harness provides a connection point on the worker to distribute the forces evenly across the body in the event of a fall. A full-body harness is a body support device that distributes fall arrest forces across the shoulders, thighs and pelvis and has a center back fall arrest attachment for connection to the connecting device.

A connecting device is used to link the body support to the anchorage connector, such as a shock-absorbing lanyard or self-retracting lanyard (SRL). SRLs are deceleration devices containing a drum-wound line that slowly may be extracted from – or retracted onto – the drum under slight tension during normal movement. After a fall, the drum automatically locks and arrests the fall within 3.5 feet, which meets both OSHA and ANSI standards. SRLs work much like a car seat belt and are meant to be anchored directly above the worker to reduce the distance a worker swings from side to side as they fall.

Point Four: Wire Rope Versus Rigid Rail

In fall arrest there are two types of systems: those that use a wire rope to support a worker and those that use a rigid rail.

Wire rope systems require additional fall clearance due to the initial sag of the wire. Rigid rail fall arrest systems eliminate any sag, stopping the fall in a much shorter distance than wire rope. Injuries occurring after the fall, such as swinging into obstacles, are minimized with a rigid rail fall arrest system.

A rigid rail fall arrest system allows for longer distances between supports, reducing both material and installation costs. When a worker falls on a wire rope system, any slack on the wire is eliminated. The result could be a sudden pull on the rope that could have a jarring effect on other workers on the same system. Rigid rail fall arrest systems provide uninterrupted protection for additional workers on the same system.

Point Five: Rigid Flexibility

While the name might imply otherwise, rigid rail systems are a flexible form of fall arrest. Ideal for environments where there is limited clearance between the working level and lower level or obstruction, these systems provide a shorter free-fall distance and a reduced risk of secondary injury due to impacts during the free fall or sudden deceleration.

If you have determined you have a fall protection need, remember that a written, site-specific program should be developed, including detailed work procedures to protect your employees. The fall protection portion of your plan should state what measures are to be used, how they are to be used, a rescue plan and the individual responsible for overall supervision and training.

Reprinted with permission by EHS Today, copyright 2012 by Penton Media Inc.

Local Governments

Although pesticides can be useful, they also can be dangerous if used carelessly or are not stored properly. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety has advice for mixing, applying and storing pesticides.

Pesticides are designed to kill pests, but some pesticides can also have negative health effects on people. The likelihood of developing these effects depends on the type of pesticide and other chemicals that are in the product you are using, as well as the amount you are exposed to and how long or often you are exposed.

Pesticides can be hazardous if not used safely. They can enter the body in three ways—by mouth, through the skin and eyes and through inhalation. Read labels carefully and remember the following key factors when using pesticides:

  • Use pest control products correctly. Some products should only be used by specially trained and certified personnel.
  • Choose the correct pesticide for the job.
  • Wear appropriate personal protective equipment and clothing when using pesticides.
  • Follow the precautions on the label.
  • Inspect pesticide containers for leaks before using.
  • Learn to recognize the typical signs of overexposure and know the appropriate first aid procedures.
  • Stop work and seek medical attention immediately if you feel ill during pesticide use or you notice signs of overexposure in a coworker.
  • Have washing facilities as close as possible to mixing and loading sites.

When mixing pesticides:

  • Use equipment reserved only for that purpose. Mixing and loading areas should be designed to contain any spills and facilitate cleanup.
  • Fill mixing tanks one-third full with water before adding pesticide concentrate.
  • Tap sides of containers to ensure that any remaining powder falls into the spray tank.
  • Keep containers below eye level to minimize splashes to the face.
  • When working outdoors, stand upwind of all opening, pouring and mixing operations.
  • Wash face and hands thoroughly after completing the mixing operation.

When spraying pesticides:

  • Ensure that all spraying equipment is in good repair and properly calibrated.
  • Use the proper nozzle for each job.
  • Stand and apply so that the wind blows the pesticide away from you.

When storing pesticides:

  • Storage areas should be locked, dry and well ventilated.
  • Post warning signs on the outside of all walls and on the door.
  • Do not store pesticides in areas where flooding may occur.
  • Store the pesticide in its original container. Protect the labels so they remain readable.
  • Tightly seal all containers. Partially empty paper containers should be sealed with tape or staples.
  • Store flammable and combustible materials in a separate section, away from heating systems and any possible source of flame.
  • Dispose of empty containers and expired or surplus pesticides according to the directions on the label.

Source: The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety

According to the United States Fire Administration, sudden cardiac death is the most common cause of firefighter fatalities in the line of duty. There are many strategies your department can implement to help reduce the risk of heart attacks and increase the chances of survival if one should occur.

Firefighters frequently risk their lives for the safety of the public. However, hazards commonly associated with fires—burns and smoke—are not the most common cause of death for on-duty firefighters. According to the United States Fire Administration, sudden cardiac death is the most common cause of firefighter fatalities in the line of duty. In fact, in 2011, over half of on-duty deaths were caused by heart attacks.

Personal factors that may affect your risk of cardiac death include age, family history, diabetes, smoking, obesity and hypertension. The nature of firefighting work can also increase the chance of a heart attack. Emergency situations expose firefighters to high levels of stress and require above average physical exertion, both of which increase heart rate and constrict blood vessels and make a heart attack more likely.

There are many strategies your department can implement to help reduce the risk of heart attack and increase the chances of survival if one should occur. If you are unable to implement all of these suggestions due to budget or time constraints, start small by selecting just one.

While it’s impossible to prevent all line-of-duty firefighter injuries and deaths, even small changes can help save lives.

Suggested Strategies

  • Medical Examinations: Medical examinations can help identify health problems before they lead to an on-the-job incident. Choose a physician who is knowledgeable about the physical demands of firefighting and can help you determine if a firefighter is physically capable of performing the job safely. Consider implementing minimum fitness standards for all department members.
  • Wellness Program: An effective wellness program doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Start by encouraging healthy habits. Provide healthy food options for firefighters on duty and organize opportunities for physical activity such as access to a community fitness facility. Encourage all members, both career and volunteer, to participate in the wellness program.
  • Difficult Conversations: Talk to your firefighters about their unhealthy habits. Express your concern for their health and well-being and suggest ways they could improve their overall health. This can be a difficult conversation topic, but it may be just the right amount of motivation the person needs to make a lifestyle change.
  • Automated External Defibrillators (AED): If administered quickly, an AED can provide the best chance of survival for someone experiencing a heart attack. For every minute that a person in cardiac arrest goes without being successfully treated with an AED, the chance of survival decreases (7 percent per minute in the first three minutes, and 10 percent per minute beyond three minutes). Equip every vehicle and department facility with an AED and make sure all firefighters know how to use them.
  • Protect from Hazards: Studies have shown that exposure to certain dusts and chemicals can increase the risk of cardiac arrest. Personal protective equipment (PPE) can minimize exposures to these hazards. Provide PPE, including hearing and respiratory protection, to all staff members. Stress the importance of wearing the appropriate PPE at all times.
  • Smoke-Free Workplace: There is a proven causal relationship between smoking (and secondhand smoke) and increased risk of heart disease and heart attack deaths. You can help your firefighters ditch the habit by establishing a smoking cessation program and ensuring all fire stations and facilities are smoke-free.
  • Safe Return to Work: Help protect your injured firefighters from reinjury by ensuring they receive medical clearance from a physician before returning to unrestricted duty.

There are a lot of resources available online to help you improve the health of your department. Here are a few to get you started:

http://www.usfa.fema.gov/operations/ops_wellness_fitness.html

http://www.everyonegoeshome.com/resources/