Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Workplace Accident - What do we do now?

Contributed by Norm Nyhuis, Trainer / Consultant

Five words that strike fear into any business operator’s heart (besides “60 Minutes is waiting outside”) are certainly, “We’ve just had an accident.” Keeping employees safe is of primary concern to any employer, but in spite of our best efforts, undesirable events with negative results still happen.

When an accident occurs, a business should approach the investigation with the thought in mind of, “what can we learn for this event that will help us avoid a similar event in the future?” Our focus should be on preventability.

Businesses need to investigate not only accidents that occur, but also investigate those events where no one was injured, but were accidents none the less. Why? Every event that we could call a “near miss” should be seen as a free warning, to induce us to take whatever measures apply to prevent a more serious event from happening.

Take for example a worker who is assigned to change a burned out light bulb, over a windowless, side door to the building. The worker is only going to be a couple of rungs up the ladder, and only for a few moments, so doesn’t take the time to put a warning sign on the other side of the door. While removing the fixture’s cover to access the bulb, another worker opens the door from the inside. Fortunately, the guy changing the light bulb had just climbed down, and wasn’t actually on the ladder at the moment the door was opened and the ladder was tipped over, but what if. . . . .

This event should be seen as a reminder that when ever working in an area where there is expected to be other workers passing through, we always should set up either warning signs or even temporarily barricade, restricting access to the area, until the work is finished.

Following are some of the reasons why the four basic steps listed should be taken, following an accident, and in the order presented:

Immediate actions: For most of us, a call to 9-1-1 is the first priority – get trained help on the way. Determine if the scene is safe for responders to enter, then address the first aid needs of any who were injured. Also determine if the scene can be isolated, preventing the possibility for the damage to spread. A second reason to isolate the scene is to prevent things from being moved or disturbed. Examination of the evidence left behind can often tell the investigator what happened; if things are moved or debris is cleaned up, a piece of the story may be gone and not be able to be recaptured.

Determine the facts: No one will be able to tell you everything that happened, so you will have to get pieces of the story from various sources. Interview witnesses, and if able, interview the person(s) directly involved. Take your own notes, photographs, and even draw a sketch of the area. NOTE: sketches are not to scale and should be so noted on the sketch, but do show the general relationship and location of objects and personnel at the time of the event. Paper documentation may also help: things such as time sheets, training records, and maintenance records may reveal contributing factors to the cause of the event.

Establish causes: Once all the data is gathered and evaluated, the cause can usually be identified. Remember – accidents seldom have a single cause, but are usually the result of several contributing factors, all coming together at the wrong time. Keep in mind the goal in this step is to establish the cause(s) and learn how to prevent those factors from coming together again.

Recommend and implement corrective actions: Once the determination has been made as to what factors came together to cause the event, take steps to reduce or eliminate the possibility of a reoccurrence. This may include

• Eliminating the process altogether
• Substitute a less hazardous item or chemical for the more dangerous one An example would be use a non-flammable solution for parts cleaning rather than a flammable petroleum product.
• Isolate the hazard that precipitated the event, such as enclose the item in an area where people can not come into contact with it, or be affected by it (such as enclosing a noisy machine in an insolated room).
• Engineering controls; such as a change to equipment, a change to eliminate the need for human intervention to control the process. Add guards, or interlocks to prevent a human operator from placing their hands in the operational part of the machine.
• Administrative changes: change operating procedures or company safety policies, for example to insure that no one works alone in a particularly hazardous area. Paint lines around a machine and require that only the operator be “inside the line” while the machine is in operation.
• PPE. As a last line of defense, what PPE should be worn by the employee when performing the task in question? Was the employee aware of the PPE need? Was the employee trained in the use and care of the PPE?
We must take the time to learn from seemingly inconsequential everyday events, and take the appropriate actions indicated to prevent accidents before they happen.

Evergreen Safety Council offers a class on Accident Investigation as part of our Safety & Health Specialist series.  Have an issue you would like address now? ESC can come to your location and perform an investigation for you.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Workplace safety - Respiratory Protection

Contributed by Eric Tofte, Director of Training, Evergreen Safety Council

Respirators protect the user in two basic ways. The first is by the removal of contaminants from the air. Respirators of this type include particulate respirators, which filter out airborne particles; and "gas masks” which filter out chemicals and gases. Other respirators protect by supplying clean respirable air from another source. Respirators that fall into this category include airline respirators, which use compressed air from a remote source; and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), which include their own air supply.
Respirators should only be used when engineering control systems are not feasible. Engineering control systems, such as adequate ventilation or scrubbing of contaminants are the preferred control methods for reducing worker exposures.

If engineering controls cannot protect employees, then an employer must provide respiratory protection and develop and implement a respiratory protection program and you need to address the following:

• Selecting respirators
• Medical evaluations
• Fit testing respirators (applies if tight fitting respirators are required)
• Maintaining and caring for respirators
• Using respirators including routine and emergency use procedures
• Supplied Air quality (applies if airline or SCBAs will be used)
• Training users and supervisors
• Evaluating the Respirator Program

This can be confusing, but necessary to ensure the protection of your employees.

If you do need to develop a program there are several avenues you can take to get help. Both OSHA and DOSH have great resource pages on this topic, or you can give Evergreen a call. We can help with training, fit testing and more 800-521-0778.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Protection Measures Needed at Production Sites

Contributed by Eric C. Tofte, Director of Training, Evergreen Safety Council

Most of the time we talk about worker safety and so forth, but what about public safety and protection from litigation if someone goes on your property and gets hurt or killed? You do have some protection, but you better do what you can to keep unauthorized people off your property, especially if you have major hazards as the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has just reported.

CSB Report Finds that Oil and Gas Exploration and Production Facilities Present Hazards to Members of the Public, Especially Children; CSB Issues Recommendations to EPA, State Regulators, NFPA, and API Aimed at Increasing Oil Site Safety and Security.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released a new study of explosions at oil and gas production sites across the U.S., identifying 26 incidents since 1983 that killed 44 members of the public and injured 25 others under the age of 25, and is calling for new public protection measures at the sites.

The report examined in detail three explosions that occurred at oil and gas production facilities in Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas, that killed and injured members of the public between October 2009 and April 2010.

The CSB report found that children and young adults frequently socialize at oil sites in rural areas, unaware of the explosion hazards from storage tanks that contain flammable hydrocarbons like crude oil and natural gas condensate.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

ESC Membership Benefit - Scholarship Program

Contributed by Star Conrad, Director of Operations, Evergreen Safety Council 
The Evergreen Safety Council Board of Directors is proud to once again present the Monty C. Lish and Stanley O. McNaughton Scholarship for Safety and Health Careers. We offer these $1,000 scholarships in order to encourage more college students to enter safety and health professions.

The Evergreen Safety Council scholarship program is intended for member company employees and their families. The brochure and application are available to all interested employees of an ESC member company and their families. All applications must be returned by February 15, 2012.

At the Council, we feel strongly that safety and health is a rewarding career worth pursuing, one that benefits not only our community, but society as a whole. This scholarship is designed to create an opportunity that directly benefits the scholarship recipients, while promoting the field of safety and health as a career option.

Students who have received a Health and Safety Careers scholarship in the past have had a wide range of scholastic and career goals. Two students received scholarships for the 2011-2012 academic year:

Mary Fantazia hopes to pursue a career as an industrial nurse. Her goal is to “be able to assess a work environment and identify potential health and safety problems [and] conduct company safety training programs.”

Morgan Hofman is attending the Oregon Institute of Technology as a pre-radiology major.

For more information about membership and its benefits, please visit our website.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What is a Bike Box?

Contributed by: Eric C. Tofte, Director of Training, Evergreen Safety Council

Bike Box

As you are out driving in the Seattle area you may be seeing “green” areas being painted near intersections with a bicycle icon on it. Well this is a bike box, and when stopping at the light, vehicles are not to enter the “box” - it is for bicycles.

What is a bike box?
The bike box is an intersection safety design to prevent bicycle/car collisions. It is a painted green space on the road with a white bicycle symbol inside. In some locations it includes a green bicycle lane approaching the box. The box creates space between motor vehicles and the crosswalk that allows bicyclists to position themselves ahead of motor vehicle traffic at an intersection.

If you want more information on this, check out the Seattle Department of Transportation bike box page.  There is also an informative video from the City of Portland on How to Use a Bike Box.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Safety & Health Solutions - December Issue

Contributed by Star Conrad, Director of Operations, Evergreen Safety Council 
Evergreen Safety Council produces a monthly newsletter covering a variety of safety topics. Each month we will provide a link here to the online PDF.

Inside this issue:
  • Lead: Outdoor Hazards
  • Violence in the Workplace
  • Let's Get Personal About Protection
  • Chemical Safety
  • Steel Toed Boots vs. Forklift
You can also sign up to receive an electronic copy via email or hard copy via the mail. This link will also take you to a full archive with over four years of past issues.

So pour yourself a cup of coffee, sit back and read all about what's going on in the world of safety & health.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Safety Gifts Support Safety Culture

Contributed by Star Conrad, Director of Operations, Evergreen Safety Council 
With the holidays fast approaching and 2012 is just around the corner, now is the best time to show employees your appreciation for working safely all year long.

Check out these ideas for employee gifts that are fun to receive and also reinforce your organization's safety culture. These items also make great gifts for your family and your employees' families!
  • Portable Weather Radio
  • Solar or battery powered AM/FM radio
  • Vehicle Emergency Kit
  • First Aid Kit – personal to family sized
  • Solar, shakable or battery powered Flashlights
  • PPE for home use – suits, goggles, ear plugs, etc.
Many of these types of gifts and even more are available online or through your general safety supply retailer.

And since we are Evergreen Safety Council…Motorcycle or Sidecar/Trike training class Gift Certificates are a great safety gift for family and friends. Call our office 206-382-4090 to order one today.