Thursday, April 30, 2009

Monday, April 27, 2009

Safety Culture; Take It Home

Safety Culture

One of the reasons that from time to time, I will post something related to safety at home, and not necessarily workplace safety is that because (I believe) that when employees have developed a safety culture, they think about safety outside of work. As I have stated before, when I do safety training I poll my students to see how many practice safety at home (usually 50%). After 6 months of training that number goes up to 80%-90%.

I have discovered another important aspect of safety training in the last 6 months; that is support for a safety culture at home. If the employer has a commitment to a culture of safety that has to extend beyond the boundaries of work. I have always provided safety information that extends beyond work and encourage them to "take it home."

I have been reviewing the accident rates of safety training I have done, programs of some colleagues, and programs I have set up and were turned over to another trainer. I noticed that my (sole) training has had lower accident rates.

The revelation came to me when one of my former client had contacted me because they were unsatisfied with the trainer of the new staffing company that had taken over their workforce. I was presented with a copy of their annual syllabus. It was very welled prepared and extremely detailed (better than mine).

It was too perfect though. It was almost as if it was a computer based program that spits out pages of information. I also noticed that it lacked safety for at home. I began to review other safety programs that I had started and with some colleagues who were willing to share data. I also specifically asked how many of these had specific elements that encouraged safety at home.

Some claimed they did, but did not have the lower accident rates. Their "take it home" aspects were basically a reminder of "don't drink & drive" during the holidays, fireworks safety during the summer. They lack to strategies to promote, develop, and integrate safety outside of work.

A note about the accident rates:

The difference between the accident rates of the safety training that integrated the "take it home" concept and the ones that did not were small; but there was a distinctive pattern between the 2. The main reason that the difference was so small was twofold, the groups were generally less than 50 employees. Most around the 10-20 employee size.

The second is that the difference between accident rates between companies that have a (well run, correctly implemented, and not half-assed) safety program and those who do not is is very big. Compared to this number the "take it home" program vs. not difference is almost insignificant.

There is definitely a pattern though. If you take into account near misses, equipment damage, productivity, and quality, the pattern becomes more pronounced and the difference greater. Finally if there was a method to mathematically quantify a measure of the abstract concept of safety culture, the "take it home"programs would have a higher rating because the culture would be 100% of the time instead of just 9 to 5.

When Pigs Fly; a Swine Flu Update

The current swine flu virus outbreak contains a combination of DNA from avian flu, swine flu and human flu viruses, (including elements from European and Asian swine viruses). That makes it a new, unique strain of swine flu that has not been scene before.

After this weekend,

-6 Cases of Swine Flu Confirmed in Canada-
-10 New Zealand Students 'Likely' Have Swine Flu
-Swine flu confirmed in 5 US states, CA, TX, OH, NY, KS
-Michigan Investigating Probable Case of Swine Flu

Here are some facts about the virus and flu viruses in general:

* The virus is an influenza A virus, carrying the designation H1N1.

* It is genetically different from the fully human H1N1 seasonal influenza virus that has been circulating globally for the past few years. The new flu virus contains DNA typical to avian, swine and human viruses, including elements from European and Asian swine viruses.

* Flu viruses mutate constantly, which is why the flu vaccine is changed every year, and they can also swap DNA in a process called re-assortment. Most animals can get flu but viruses rarely pass from one species to another.

* From December 2005 through February 2009, 12 cases of human infection with swine influenza were confirmed, all but one among people who had contact with pigs. There was no evidence of human-to-human transmission.

* Symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to those of seasonal influenza — sudden onset of fever, coughing, muscle aches and extreme tiredness. Swine flu appears to cause more diarrhea and vomiting than normal flu.

* People rarely catch avian flus. Notable exceptions include the H1N1 strain that caused the 1918 pandemic and H5N1 bird flu, which has killed 257 out of 421 infected in 15 countries since 2003, according to the World Health Organization.

* Seasonal flu kills between 250,000 and 500,000 people globally in an average year.

* When a new strain of flu starts infecting people, and when it acquires the ability to pass from person to person, it can spark a pandemic. The last pandemic was in 1968 and killed about a million people.

* In 1976 a new strain of swine flu started infecting people and worried U.S. health officials started widespread vaccination. More than 40 million people were vaccinated. But several cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a severe and sometime fatal condition that can be linked to come vaccines, caused the U.S. government to stop the program. The incident led to widespread distrust of vaccines in general.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Swine Flu Update

1004 suspected cases now in Mexico
60 deaths from the flu in Mexico
8 cases in the US

Swine Flu outbreak in Mexico; cases found in CA & TX

AP just reported Swine flu outbreak in Mexico, Mexico city closes schools. This outbreak has been responsible for the deaths of 60 people in Mexico. Cases have been reported in California and Texas.

A 9-year-old girl in Imperial County and a 10-year-old boy in San Diego County both were identified as having swine flu. Luckily, neither child needed hospitalization and both have recovered. Health officials, however, are puzzled and looking for the source of the infection.

The story can be found here:,0,1362740.story

What is the swine flu?

Swine flu refers to four different types of flu strains that circulate among pigs. Under normal conditions, typically humans don’t contract swine flu. Unless, of course, they have direct contact with pigs.

Historically, the swine flu epidemic of 1918 hit the U.S., killing more than 500,000 that year. In 1976, the U.S. was scared again by swine flu. A national vaccination program was launched and fewer people died.

This strain of swine flu originated in Mexico and is a NEW strain of the virus. For this reason, there is no vaccine to protect against it.

What are the symptoms of swine flu in humans?

The symptoms of swine flu in people are expected to be similar to the symptoms of regular human seasonal influenza and include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Influenza (also known as the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly and may include these symptoms:

* Fever (usually high)
* Headache
* Extreme tiredness
* Dry cough
* Sore throat
* Runny or stuffy nose
* Muscle aches
* Stomach symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, also can occur but are more common in children than adults

These symptoms are usually referred to as "flu-like symptoms."

More info can be found at the CDC here:


* If you are sick, do not go to work. Stay home so you do not potentially infect others.

* Seek medical attention. Only a doctor can diagnose your condition and treat it.

* If employees show up at work with flu-like symptoms, coordinate with HR to send them home until they are well or it is determined that they are not suffering from the flu.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Machine Guarding

I think that machine guarding is probably the most overlooked deficiency in industry. The reason being that the guards get in the way, slow down production, and the mindset that there was never a guard there. This is a form of complacency. Complacency seems to be the most common factor in the majority of accidents I have investigated.

OSHA requires all machines to be guarded. An employer must guard any machine without a guard, even if it was purchased without guards. This is especially relevant in manufacturing. From my work in the printing industry it was not uncommon to see a printing press, die cutter, etc. that is about 100 years old. This is also common in the woodworking industry too.

In many of these machines there are only 5 things that can go wrong and they are all replaceable wear parts. They are bushings/bearings, drive belts, cutters (the working tool), feeders, and the drive motors. (Some may argue that motors are not wear parts, but they are designed to be rebuilt.) Unlike many of the newer machines that rely on electronics, the older machines will last forever.

The most common unguarded machines I see are table saws and drill presses. As for the drill presses, I am not fully convinced that a guard is practical. I think that is because I have not seen a really good design for a drill press guard. Sears offers a pretty good guard retail! The Sears Craftsman guard is pictured above.

I have also seen 1 or 2 guards that were fabricated at shops that were designed pretty good also. The one drawback is that they limit the functionality of the drill press. I have an open mind and I am always looking to advance safety, so I continue to look for a good drill press guard.

For table saws, there is an amazing product called Saw Stop. If you touch the blade, it stops the saw blade before it can cut you. You can watch the video here:

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Oklahoma Oil Fields

Click on any image to view full size.

Once again work takes me to some remote corner of the US. This time it was the Oil Fields of Oklahoma. I personally handle sites, inspections, training, and incidents that involve high profile sites or companies, high hazard/high risk industries, remote locations, severe incidents, or where safety is mission critical.

The petroleum industry is considered high hazard. One of the things that I learned from my trip is that the petroleum industry is dominated by many, many small companies rather than a few big multinational corporations. The industry is full of small contractor companies that service the different segments of the supply chain.

From a safety perspective this is good and bad. Unlike the big names that we all know, there is not the million dollar budgets for safety. They do not use Six Sigma quality control. They are however very agile when it comes to implementing programs and there is open lines of communications between employees and management with questions or concerns.

I also found that since this is part of the Bible Belt there are employees who do not drink alcohol. These companies are like families, small and the people look after each other. Many times these are family owned and employ family members.

Some differences from the offshore petroleum rigs is that drilling is done by mobile rigs that are somewhat safer. The whole process of sinking a well is done by small crews, each specializing in the step they are doing. The Oil and Natural Gas Industry as a whole has a lower rate of injury than the whole US private sector.

In 2006, the rate of job-related nonfatal injuries and illnesses for the oil and natural
gas industry was 3.41 per 100 full-time workers, compared to a rate of 4.4 for the
entire U.S. private sector.
-source: American Petroleum Institute,


Click on any image to view full size.

And Decided Not To Worry And Kept Driving.

The Ensuing Jumble Finally Whipped Around Enough to Tear A Hole In The Fuel Tank.

The Subsequent Lack Of Fuel Is What Finally
Brought Her Vehicle To It's Knee's.

She Had Still Managed To Drive 30 More Miles
With A 60 Pound Tangle of Stuff Wrapped
Around Her Driveshaft.

She Had It Towed To Her Dealership And Complained
That The Vehicle Had A " Sort Of Shimmy "
When She Was Driving At High Speeds.

Below Are The Photo's Of What They
Found At Her Dealership.....................

The Last Photo Is By Far The Best.

" Sort Of A Shimmy" I'll Bet It Did !

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Root Cause

I just finished another accident investigation, not too serious. Just prior to doing the investigation, I was reviewing my notes on accident investigation so that I was focused on the investigation and the facts. I came across this illustration of the "Accident Weed."

What this states is that the ultimate cause of all accidents is a system failure. Somewhere the safety program has deficiencies. These deficiencies lead to the accident. Although the deficiencies may not have been the direct cause of the accident, they allowed (or did not prevent) the behavior that lead to the accident.

In my years of investigation accidents I found a couple interesting factors that contribute; It is not the "goof-off" employee that is involved in serious accidents, it is the good employee that cares so much about his work that he forgets about safety practices (complacency).

Another factor is that time pressure is present in almost all of these serious accidents. The last contributing cause is when employees do not FOLLOW or do not UNDERSTAND the instructions given. #-part communication can solve this system weakness.