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Environmental Health and Safety Blog | EHSWire

Death Determines the Cost of Safety

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Oct 25, 2010 1:10:29 AM

Carrie Bettinger - CSP, CHMM

It’s a windy, rainy day in northern New Jersey today and, as I drive through my town, I see the sanitation trucks are out to collect garbage and paper recyclables as early as they can before everything is soaked.  My town roads are basically paved horse trails so imagine narrow, winding roads with lots of sharp curves with a posted speed limit of 25 MPH.  So why is one of the garbage trucks going about 35MPH on one of these roads with a soaking wet worker standing on the truck’s rear platform clinging with a death grip to the side?  Is it that important to get the garbage in as fast as possible?  Why is the worker not in the truck if they are not making stops?  Does one of these workers have to die before this sanitation company takes steps to stop these stupid and unsafe acts?

As an experienced Safety Professional, I’m trained to recognize compliance-driven and non-compliance "best practice" occupational safety violations.  However, what does it take to change laws and habits that affect workers and citizens?  In our society and legal system it seems that, yes, someone (or many) has to tragically die before change and regulation are considered.

Let’s review some of our history:

1911:  The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York resulted in 146 worker deaths due to locked escape routes leading to local then nationwide Life Safety Laws.

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Topics: OSHA, health and safety, General Industry H&S, General EHS, Construction H&S, Chemical Safety Board, Compliance, worker safety, Occupational Safety, Occupational Training, Lab Safety, Safety Training in Spanish, water safety

OSHA at 40: Taking on a Mid-life Crisis?

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Oct 11, 2010 1:00:07 AM

Bruce Groves - CIH

In July, David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, published a memo to his staff at OSHA highlighting several new approaches that OSHA is using (or planning to use) in its effort to protect workers.  Dr. Michaels is building on the progress of his predecessors and reinforcing some of the weak links in the system created both by Congress and former administrations. In his recent letter, Dr. Michaels reviews some legacy issues that limit OSHA-influence in creating safer workplaces such as

  • OSHA has only 2,000 inspectors responsible for the health and safety of 130 million workers at 7 million worksites

  • OSHA fines are too small to have an adequate deterrent effect

  • OSHA standards provide limited protection to whistleblowers from retaliation

  • OSHA occupational exposure standards have been established for only a small percentage of chemicals used in US workplaces (most of those are based on out-of-date science) with a slow and resource-intensive standard-setting process

Dr. Michaels states that OSHA needs to transform how it addresses workplace hazards, and in its relationship to employers and workers. As such he outlines a new strategy that is a clear shift from recent years indicating that there is a “new sheriff in town” and business (ALL businesses) should take heed.  Here are some of my extrapolations and thoughts regarding 6 of these transformational items -- consider how they will affect your business or workplace.
1.       Stronger Enforcement:  Some Employers Need Incentives to Do the Right Thing

OSHA will have more and bigger sticks.  OSHA is redirecting resources to conduct inspections of high risk industries and tasks including ergonomics.

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Topics: Emilcott, OSHA, indoor air quality, health and safety, General Industry H&S, General EHS, Construction H&S, H&S Training, Compliance, worker safety, Occupational Health, Occupational Safety, Lab Safety & Electrical, emergency response training, Occupational Training, Safety Training in Spanish, water safety, small business

Industrial Hygiene…It’s a 24 Hour Job!

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Sep 20, 2010 4:12:14 AM

Paula Kaufmann, CIH

I just read an article in the New York Times ( Hazards: Watch Where You Point That Laser) about a 15-year boy who bought a laser pointer on the Internet.  He selected this particular model as the light was supposed to be powerful enough pop balloons and burn holes in fabric.  And, it was all he had hoped for and more.  He popped balloons from a distance and burnt holes in his sister’s sneakers.  However, he literally got burned by the “and more” features of his new toy. Tragically, he shined the pointer in a mirror and the light beam reflected back onto one of his eyes causing major damage. 

My first thought was, “How stupid was that”.  My second thought was more balanced, “I guess he wasn’t properly trained or didn’t read the instructions”.  I’ve been told by loved ones that I can be a bit intrusive (if not annoying) with my unconscious monitoring of unsafe behavior in my constant role of “health and safety inspector”.  So be it!  According to the Home Safety Council, every year there are millions of preventable home-related incidents and accidents “ that result in nearly 20,000 deaths and 21 million medical visits”.  

Here are some examples of what I consider stupid (or let’s say shortsighted) actions -- some at work, some at home. Yes, I make these observations all the time to family and friends and, as you can imagine, that can be a bit trying for them but I feel it’s worth the price.

  • Using an electric lawn mower on a damp lawn with damaged extension cords repaired with electrical tape AND with the ground prong clipped. Worse yet – asking my child to use this dangerous setup!

  • Removing the guard from a circular saw.

  • Cutting overhead branches without wearing a hard hat or eye protection.

  • Smoking a cigarette, cigar or pipe while filling a car with gas. Worse yet – a gas station attendants smoking cigarettes while pumping gas.

  • Construction or utility workers using a jack hammer on a concrete sidewalk and not wearing safety glasses or hearing protection while wearing a hard hat.

  • Police directing traffic without wearing a traffic safety vest. Worse yet – doing this after dark in a dark uniform without white gloves.

  • Mowing the lawn in sandals and shorts without eye protection while listening to music at full volume (using earphones not noise reducing hearing protection).

  • Eating snacks while removing paint from old furniture or woodwork in a house built before WW I, which makes the lead content highly probable.  Worse yet – having your kids help you while you dry sweep or use a regular household vacuum to “clean up” the area.

  • Utility worker serving as a confined space watch (at the ground level of an underground manway) talking (and laughing) on a cell phone and drinking coffee (usually about 10 feet from the manway).

  • Nail salon workers wearing dust masks while applying acrylics to customers’ nails -- dust masks don’t reduce exposure to the chemicals used during acrylic application. Worse yet - acrylic nail services happening in a tiny storefront with limited ventilation.

  • Being “careful” when installing an electrical light by shutting off the switch to the power but not the circuit breaker to the line.

  • Applying insect repellant from an aerosol can while sitting by a bonfire.

  • Removing a bicycle helmet as soon as your mom can’t see you as it is just too hot to protect your brain.

And, finally, one of my favorite tales is the time that I was away from home on a business trip, and while I was gone, my husband renovated my home office space.  He did a beautiful job, but when I asked him why he went through the effort to surprise me, he said “It is so much easier to get work done when the OSHA inspector is not home”.  I just wish I could have given him a citation.

If you’re interested in home safety, September – National Preparedness Month -- is a good time to begin.  You can start with a visit the website of the Home Safety Council® (HSC), a national nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing home-related injuries. You’ll  find dozens of tips, stories and videos and information about Safety Saturday (September 25) at participating Lowe’s stores.

What are some of your favorite observations of “stupid” health and safety practices outside of the work environment? And, if you’re a health and safety professional, how do you balance maintaining a safe home life without driving your friends and family crazy?
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Topics: health and safety, General Industry H&S, General EHS, Emergency Response, worker safety, Occupational Safety, emergency response training, Fire Safety, Public Safety, water safety, industrial hygiene, home safety

Employee “Wellness” – not just for work!

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Jul 5, 2010 1:00:31 AM

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Topics: Personal Protective Equipment, health and safety, General Industry H&S, Construction H&S, H&S Training, Respiratory, water safety

Water Safety at Work

Posted by Shivi Kakar

May 24, 2010 2:57:16 AM

Capt. John DeFillippo, CHMP, EMT-B

Does your company have employees that work on, near or over water? Hazardous waste site and emergency response workers, those in the construction trades, surveyors and bridge inspection/repair crews are but a few occupations where this applies. OSHA regulations (29 CFR 1926.106 for example) cover the safety of such workers including training and protective equipment requirements. Other federal and state (USCG and TSA) regulations may also apply to your operation. For example, if you are working over water, such as bridge work, you must have a rescue skiff at the ready, with trained personnel to operate it, in case someone falls in. Working at piers, refineries or other marine facilities may entail very specific security requirements.

Water can be unforgiving of carelessness. As a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, an EMT and a licensed captain working in the marine salvage industry, I’ve seen plenty of tragedies on the water. Nearly all were avoidable. Here are some essential questions to help you assess your water safety knowledge:

  • Is everyone wearing personal flotation devices? Are they the right type, worn correctly, and U.S. Coast Guard approved?

  • What is the water temperature? In April in the mid-Atlantic region, the water is about 45 degrees F which means you can last about 15 minutes before hypothermia sets in.

  • Do you understand the risk of hypothermia? Even if the water is at 80 degrees F, it’s the same as being in air of 42 degrees F. And, water removes heat from the body 25 times faster than air of the same temperature.

  • Does everybody know how to swim? What to do if caught in a current? Will they know to swim parallel to the shore or go with it until you out of it? You can't swim against a current, even a gentle one, for very long, so don’t try.

  • If someone does fall in, what’s the plan? Formulating a plan when you hear the splash is too late! Having the proper rescue equipment and understanding how to use it is essential.

  • Who is trained in CPR and Basic First Aid? Knowing what to do in an emergency saves lives! Too many would-be rescuers become victims themselves, so leave water rescue to those who have the training and tools.

  • Is the boat operator trained? Employers who would never think of allowing an untrained person to operate a crane often have no problem letting someone without proper training operate a boat on a navigable waterway. Many states, including New Jersey, now require all operators of power-driven vessels to take an approved Safe Boating Course. Fines can be steep and may get the vessel impounded.

The Emilcott Training Institute offers many training programs that can help keep workers safe, including an 8-hour Water Safety and Boating Basics that is approved by the NJ State Police and recognized in several other states as well. Fall Protection, Water Safety and Red Cross CPR and Basic First Aid are also offered in-house or on-site. If you have ANY questions about water safety at work, give Emilcott a call or comment below.
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Topics: OSHA, Personal Protective Equipment, health and safety, General Industry H&S, Construction H&S, Emergency Response, H&S Training, worker safety, Occupational Safety, emergency response training, Occupational Training, water safety, Water Response Plan

Top 10: Water Safety at Work and Play

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Jul 21, 2009 10:31:34 AM

Capt. John DeFillippo, CHMP, EMT-B

The best thing anyone can do to stay safe in and around the water is to learn to swim. It’s never too late and kids should learn to treat the water with respect at an early age. As a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, an EMT and a licensed captain working in marine salvage, I’ve seen my share of tragedies on the water. Sadly, nearly all were avoidable. Here are some tips to help you stay safe in and on the water this summer when on and off the clock.

At Play

1. Swim in a supervised, marked area with a lifeguard present and never swim alone.

2. Enter the water feet first. Enter the water headfirst only when the area is clearly marked for diving .

3. Adults should never leave a child unobserved around water. Practice "reach supervision" by staying within an arm's length when around the water.

4. If you are caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current. Once you are free, turn and swim toward shore. You can't swim against a rip, don’t’ try.

5. Keep toys away from the pool when it is not in use. Toys can attract young children into the pool.

6. If a child is missing, check the pool first. Go to the edge of the pool and scan the entire pool, bottom, and surface, as well as the surrounding pool area.

7. Take a Safe Boating Course. Many states now require this for operation of vessels, including personal water craft or jet-skies. Check your local laws.

8. Learn CPR and Basic First Aid. Knowing what to do in an emergency can save a life.

9. Leave water rescue to those who are trained. Too many would-be rescuers become victims themselves.

At Work

10. Do you or your employees work on, near or over water? Did you know that there are specific OSHA regulations covering the safety of such workers including required training and protective equipment? If you have any questions or you’re not sure, reply to this post or visit our Twitter page - @Emilcott and send a DM.
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Topics: General Industry H&S, Construction H&S, H&S Training, Compliance, worker safety, Occupational Health, Occupational Safety, Safety Training in Spanish, water safety, EMT

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