Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Danger: Swan!

Again I always look at the lighter side of safety, it helps get the point across. But there is usually a deeper lesson and this post is no different. The deeper lesson is that there are hazards lurking out there that we do not know about or do not think that they are (or can be) a hazard.

Take "swans;" (from Wikipedia) Swans, genus Cygnus, are birds of the family Anatidae, which also includes geese and ducks. Most of us think of swans as romantic, or of Björk and her infamous dead swan dress at the 2001 Oscars. But they are wild animals, bigger and stronger than most of us expect, and should be treated as a potential hazard.

I have had much experience with wildlife in both my professional and private life. I use to work with a program that was preserving the endangered and Fererall Protected (from Wikipedia) American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus). I had a client that had the American Crocodile on their site and many clients that had alligator hazards.

I have also had hands-on experience with swans.

Kayaker Drowns After Being Attacked by Swan

April 14, 2012

DES PLAINES, Ill. — Anthony Hensley, 37, drowned in a pond after falling off his kayak when a swan attacked him. He was checking on the swans that his employer had provided the Bay Colony Condominiums in unincorporated Maine Township.  

The swan had been placed in the pond by the company Hensley was working for, North Barrington-based Knox Swan and Dog LLC, in a bid to keep geese away. Hensley was checking on the swan while in his kayak. It is thought he got too close to a swan and it attacked him, and he capsized the Chicago Sun-Times reported. His death ruled an accident.

Witnesses saw him come up to the surface a couple of times before he went under again and did not resurface. He was pulled from the water by rescuers after about 45 minutes of searching, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Divers pulled Hensley’s body from a pond after witnesses saw him fall out of a kayak and was unable to swim to shore, according to Cook County sheriff’s police. Although witnesses did not see him fall into the water, investigators believe Hensley may have gotten too close to a swan or its nest and been attacked.

Hensley was married and had two daughters, aged 1 and 3 at the time of his death.  A family friend, Charles Emery, said Hensley had worked for Knox Swan and Dog for 10 years and loved the outdoors-related job.

OSHA: No Violations in Man’s Swan-Related Drowning

Update November 27, 2012

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration found no workplace violations in the April death of the 37-year-old Villa Park man who drowned near Des Plaines after authorities believe he was attacked by an aggressive swan.

Federal investigators have cleared a North Barrington company of any workplace violations in connection with the death of a Villa Park man who authorities believe drowned in April while checking on swans a the Bay Colony Condominiums near Des Plaines

OSHA spokesman Scott Allen said the agency investigated the possibility of health and safety violations on the part of Hensley’s employer, but ultimately found none. OSHA has jurisdiction to investigate any workplace fatality and Hensley’s death was considered work-related, Allen said.

More to It:

After reading this story I have to say that there is more to it.  If OSHA found no violations, then he must have been wearing a life vest (PPE), and yet he drowned. There is no current in a pond, so did the life vest fail, did he get stuck in the mud on the bottom? Did the swan hold him under? Could he swim?

It was said that he loved the outdoors-related job, but this does not make him an outdoorsman. I consider myself an outdoorsman, having grown up hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, and being outdoors all my life. I, like most outdoorsmen, can swim, and I cam swim very well. Growing up, I have swam in rivers creeks, and some places I shouldn't have. (When I talk about my childhood, my wife says I am lucky to be alive.)

I can swim underwater 3 lengths of my (40 ft, in-ground) pool. More than enough to get away from a swan. So what happened? It would be interesting to read OSHA's report and see their conclusions.

 I do not have the answers.

Swim Class as Safety Training?

This leads to an interesting question: If you have an employee working on or around water, and you provide personal floatation devices (a.k.a. life vests), should you teach the employee how to swim (send him to a swim class) also?

That also leads to the question: is being able to swim required for certain jobs even if you provide personal floatation devices?

My Thoughts:

Here are some things that I would do: (Note: this is a generalization. Every job is different.)
  1. JHA (Job Hazard Analysis) on each job. Is there current or still water? How deep? Mud at the bottom that you can get stuck in?
  2. Pre-Job Briefs. This is one of the Human Performance tools. 
  3. I would require at least 1 person to be able to swim well. (Note: This is subjective, the decision would be on a job-by-job basis and rely heavily on the JHA (Job Hazard Analysis) of each job.  My definition of swimming well would be to be able to swim underwater for at least 25 feet, be able to open your  eyes under water without goggles, and tread water for at least 5 minutes.)
  4.  I would prefer that all people on the job know how to swim, but that would not prohibit them from working on that particular job. That decision would be on a job-by-job basis and rely heavily on the JHA (Job Hazard Analysis) of each job. 
  5. Of course, if you are required to swim, then you need to provide training (swim classes at YMCA maybe?)
  6. I would also set a ratio of people that can swim well to people that can't swim well or swim at all. (Note: This is subjective, the decision would be on a job-by-job basis and rely heavily on the JHA (Job Hazard Analysis) of each job.  My ratio would 1 person who swims well to no more than 5 people who can't swim well or swim at all.)
  7. I would also borrow heavily from OSHA's new Fall Protection Standard:
    1. Have a rescue plan and equipment in place.
    2. Along with personal floatation devices, are Self-retracting lifelines (SRLs) (also called: fall limiter, personal fall limiter, yo-yo, seatbelt) needed?
    3. Can barriers or fences be used?
  8.  Training, training, training!!!
 Finally, I know what I talk about. Here I am supervising a crew moving a combination (backhoe) on a barge. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

OSHA, Thanksgiving and Black Friday Safety, Sales, and Protests

First off let me start by saying I totally oppose any store opening on Thanksgiving, even at midnight! Family is sacred! I am sure that the executives are not in their offices on Thanksgiving. More on the safety issues associated with this later. 


OSHA Sends Black Friday Safety Recommendations to Retailers

On November 14, 2012, OSHA sent major retail stores a letter with recommendations on how to keep shoppers and employees safe. (A copy of this letter can be seen here:) The violence reached a high in 2008 when a worker was trampled to death when a mob of shoppers rushed through doors of a New York Wal-Mart.

The U.S. Labor Department is urging retailers to step-up crowd control. OSHA’s recommendations include on-site security and police officers, emergency procedures in case of danger and not blocking or locking exit doors.


Black Friday Protests at Wal-Mart

To add fuel to the fire and increase the potential for workplace violence, Wal-Mart and other retailers are facing protest and demonstrations for opening Thanksgiving Day. 

Federal labor officials still have made no decision on a request by the world’s largest retailer to stop scheduled protests by a union-backed group on Black Friday outside its stores. Wal-Mart claims the demonstrations organized by OUR Walmart threaten to disrupt its business and intimidate customers and other store workers. OUR Walmart has filed its own claim with the labor board, saying the retailer has attempted to prevent workers from participating in legally protected walkouts. The group is protesting what it says are low wages for Wal-Mart workers, and increases in out-of-pocket costs for their health care.

Issues of Safety

So how is having workers work on Black Friday an issue of safety? OSHA requires employers to provide a safe and healthful workplace free of recognized hazards. So what are some of the hazards being associated with being open on Black Friday.

  1. Thanksgiving Day Fatigue:  Requiring employees to work Thanksgiving Day does not mean that they are going to cancel Thanksgiving Dinner for their family so they can sleep. They will just go without sleep, get up earlier and stay awake. Along with this will be feelings of anger (at employers and customers for being the reason that they have to work), depression and guilt (from being away from their families), and despair (because people who are working retail usually have limited options and this economy is not helping).
  2. Unusual or Extended Shifts: OSHA considers a normal work shift to last a period of no more than eight consecutive hours for five days of the week with at least an eight-hour rest period between shifts. Unusual or extended shifts may interrupt normal rest periods, thereby resulting in fatigue for the worker. Extended periods of fatigue can have physical manifestations, such as headaches, inability to concentrate or suppressed immune system as well as mental and physical stress. The administration recommends that employers "diligently monitor" night shift workers and learn to recognize signs and symptoms of shift-related health effects such as weariness, irritability, lack of concentration, depression and headache. An employer should evaluate employees who present such symptoms and possibly allow the employee to leave the area to seek rest. This is one of OSHA's web pages about unusual or extended shifts (link here).
  3. Employee Error: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration indicates that such hazards could potentially lead to employee error and occupational injuries. 
  4. Workplace Violence: "Crowd control and proper planning are critical to preventing injuries and deaths," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "OSHA urges retailers to adopt a crowd management plan during the holiday shopping season that includes a few simple guidelines. "Workplace violence is more than crowd control; angry customers because of a limited number of sales items, increased stress and anger due to fatigue that may lead to physical confrontations. In 2010, a shopper was arrested outside a Madison, Wis., Toys “R” Us after she allegedly threatened to shoot shoppers who objected to her cutting the line.
  5. Crushing Injuries: In 2008, roughly 2,000 shoppers stormed a Wal-Mart in Valley Stream, N.Y., trampling an employee to death.
  6. Slips, Trips, and Falls: People fighting for deals, rushing in the store as well as merchandise strewn about as shoppers "dig" for the best deals will cause slips, trips, and falls.
  7. Back Injuries: Black Friday is best known for deep discounts on large items:  high-definition (big screen) TVs, Barbie ride-on Jeep, and furniture. Shoppers not wanting to injure themselves ask that a store employee move heavy objects, with a shortage of employees, many times employees move large objects by themselves.
  8. Riots: Stores are trying to incite a frenzy by getting people excited about specials. This "momentum" can easily get away. It is like rolling a snowball down a mountain that causes an avalanche.

 Some of the Offenders Who Ruined Thanksgiving:

I usually don't mention companies who have erred by name, but I feel this deems it:

Thanks to retailers, Black Friday comes earlier each year. This year, some stores will roll out their Black Friday deals before the Thanksgiving dinner table is cleared. K Mart/Sears, Toys “R” Us and Wal-Mart deals will kick off at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving night in most locations. Most Target stores will open at 9 p.m., HH Gregg opens its doors at 10 p.m. Kohl's, Best Buy, Bon-Ton and Macy's will open doors at most locations at midnight. Retail experts say it’s all meant to build up consumer demand for the day.

 Some of the Good Guys:

A number of stores will keep to early morning Black Friday openings. Staples will open at 5 a.m. So, too, will Lowe's and rival home improvement warehouse Home Depot. JCPenney and Burlington Coat Factory are among the last of the major retailers to wait until 6 a.m.

Still, in some states, Thanksgiving remains off limits for retailers. Most retail employees in Massachusetts and Maine, for example, are prohibited from working on Thanksgiving, which means many stores can’t open on that day. 

Safety Recommendations:

I can go through what to do as far as lifting, crowd control, etc. I will not, you can find that on OSHA's web site. I will leave you with this:

Do NOT open on Thanksgiving. Wait until 6 a.m. Black Friday. I will NOT shop on Thanksgiving Day. I will be with family. I pray that all of you who read this will have someone and the freedom to spend Thanksgiving with someone too.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

OSHA Focuses on Wind Energy

For years, OSHA did not understand the the wind energy industry and, therefore, did not give the industry fair treatment in cases involving safety-related incidents at wind farms. However, the agency is sharpening its focus on wind energy.

In fact, more than 40 inspectors and department heads recently spent two days learning about techniques for wind turbine tower climbing, climb and rescue procedures, and proper lockout/tagout procedures.

"In the past, safety incidents would have been judged differently across OSHA districts," Michele Myers Mihelic ( American Wind Energy Association), "Now, hopefully, that will not be the case."

Myers Mihelic says the program was spurred by several recent safety incidents that attracted media coverage - and more attention from OSHA.

According to AWEA, 37 OSHA personnel were trained to climb the ladder structure of a wind turbine and perform self-rescue. They were also able to access a wind turbine nacelle in order to develop a better understanding of how a wind turbine operates.

The seven OSHA employees who did not climb the wind turbine toured Invenergy's Grand Ridge wind project, located in Marseilles, Ill.

Trainees went through a rigorous six-station course to practice all essential elements of a successful rescue operation. They learned how to operate a harness from a standing and suspended position, how to escape from inside a turbine tower and the top of a nacelle, how to deploy a fall-arrest lanyard and rigging, and how to rescue incapacitated victims on a fixed ladder.

This understanding is crucial for OSHA workers when they review safety incidents, she adds.

OSHA's increased emphasis on wind energy includes the formation of a task force to learn more about wind energy.

Tom Bielema, OSHA area director and task force member, says the hands-on training providing task force members with the "proper knowledge, skills, equipment and understanding that they will need to perform their required functions. It is important to understand the conditions that the external customers work on or are responsible for."

Friday, September 14, 2012

GoDaddy Update

We finally know what  caused the GoDaddy crash, it was their DNS servers as I reported in my previous post.

GoDaddy has sent all its customers an apology and a 1 month credit for the September 10 crash of its site. The email read:

Dear Xxxx,

We owe you a big apology for the intermittent service outages we experienced on September 10 that may have impacted your website, your email and other Go Daddy services.

We let you down and we know it. We take our responsibilities — and the trust you place in us — very seriously. I cannot express how sorry I am to those of you who were inconvenienced.

The service outage was due to a series of internal network events that corrupted router data tables. Once the issues were identified, we took corrective actions to restore services for our customers and We have implemented a series of immediate measures to fix the problem.

At no time was any sensitive customer information, including credit card data, passwords or names and addresses, compromised.

Throughout our history, we have provided 99.999% uptime in our DNS infrastructure. This is the level of performance we expect from ourselves. Monday, we fell short of these expectations. We have learned from this event and will use it to drive improvement in our services.

As a result of this disruption, your account will be credited for the value of 1 month of service for each plan that has at least one active or published site (Web Hosting, Quick Shopping Cart®, Website Builder, Email, etc.).* This credit will be available to you for the next 7 days. Please click the button below to redeem your credit.

It's an honor to serve you. As always, please call us 24/7 at 480-505-8877 — anytime, for any reason.


Scott Wagner

Talk about doing the right thing. Kudos to GoDaddy for this move.

So what does this have to do with safety you ask? See my previous post here:

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

GoDaddy Site Crashes

GoDaddy's website crashed yesterday. So how does this affect me? Why is this on a safety blog? Is this even news?

Well it affected me. I could not do any work, development, or updates on any of my websites yesterday. As I stated in previous posts, as a safety person our jobs are becoming more intertwined with technology. What if you had your MSDS catalog web based and there was a fire last night at your plant?

If the fire department could not access the MSDS catalog online do you have a hard copy back up? Was it in the office in the building on fire? What about your procedure for accident reporting, was that only online too? So what does the night supervisor do no that he can't access the web site.

Whether you maintain the web site, have access to it, or have someone else do it, you need to ensure redundancy.

This is news because GoDaddy has thousands if not millions of web sites hosted for small and medium sized businesses. GoDaddy is also the choice for newbies because of their excellent customer service, their variety of tools, and ease of use. They were my first hosting provider and I still use them.

There are other hosting sites that more seasoned IT professionals prefer, but I am a Risk Manager, a safety person who happens to know enough about web development to be dangerous. I am in a small business. I am GoDaddy's target demographic.

GoDaddy has confirmed that its DNS problems yesterday, which caused thousands of websites to go down for most of the day, are now finished. And while an alleged member of the hacktivist group Anonymous was claiming responsibility for the situation yesterday, GoDaddy says that it wasn’t an external network attack that caused it: it was “a series of internal network events that corrupted router data tables.”

Someone (allegedly) from Anonymous posted a Tweet claiming responsibility. Later another person (allegedly) from Anonymous posted a Tweet saying that Anonymous did not do it.

Note: GoDaddy has been a target of Anonymous for supporting SOPA (see here). legislation. GoDaddy has since withdrawn support of SOPA.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Did you know that the IRS collects fines for OSHA?

As a safety professional I bet you did not know that the IRS collects fines for OSHA. This is not common knowledge and is not really publicized anywhere. This little known fact was brought to light in the following article: Builder's plan to ignore OSHA fine in collapsed home could mean IRS involvement.

The IRS is not the primary collection agent for OSHA, they are only the "hammer" after unpaid fines have gone to collection. According to the article:

Bill Coffin, a supervisor for OSHA's Augusta (Maine) office, said his agency generally collects most of the fines, but there are procedures in place if companies refuse to pay. The process starts with the debt collectors in Washington, D.C. If the company ignores collector's letters the process is turned over to private collection firms and, eventually, to the Internal Revenue Service.

So what does that have to do with me, I am only the safety person. You must impress upon your superiors and the owners that OSHA fines are serious and need to be paid. They are not like herpes, they don't just go away if you ignore them. (Disclaimer: This is an attempt at humor.) Most of the time, you can "negotiate" with OSHA to reduce or to eliminate the fines. I have done this on multiple occasions.

The negotiation is a a give and take. OSHA will expect you to correct any deficiencies in a certain amount of time. They will expect a written safety program is instituted/updated, followed, and training is done.

This goes back to what I have always said: "Are you trying to do the right thing?"

 Your workplace has to have at the very least something that looks like a safety program. OSHA does this to give an incentive to utilize a safety program. There is a certain point of "economies of scale" where it becomes cheaper to just pay the fines. I won't go into the math, but OSHA has to make it more cost effective to do the right thing. If there is no safety at all, OSHA will figure this out very fast, and there is little that you can do.

If you work at a medium sized company, and management deems that it is "not in the budget" to pull everyone off the job and conduct a monthly safety meeting, then what do you do? I had this problem with a manager for one of my clients, here was my solution to him:

Conduct one-on-one training. As you walk around the floor, take 5 minutes and do a mini-training session. Go over what is important, ask the employee what they think is important, if they do not know how to do something show them then and there, and have them sign off on a training sheet. This is just as much about the day to day production as it is about safety.

The other solution was to have a once a month production meeting at the beginning of the month. This made the owner happy because it was a means to plan production, reduce costs, and increase output. Part of this included safety. Safety has a direct correlation with efficiency.

When I started in the staffing industry, my first job was sales. I was quoting a sawmill (this shows how long ago this was), and I asked the owner about his current work comp coverage. He told me that his broker was to have a policy for him.

The next day he was to start production.

I told him that if he has not heard from his broker by now, I doubted that he would have coverage tomorrow. I asked, "What are you going to do?" He answered, "What can I do?" "I have to start up tomorrow with or without comp. I can't afford not to." I asked, "What if someone got hurt?" "I guess I am out of business," was his response.

I walked away and never went back. That was one of those experiences that had a profound effect on me.  heard nothing of concern if someone got hurt, only what he could afford. I realize that you need to support your family and business, but at what cost? I also wondered that if he did have work comp, would he run the business any different? I doubt it.

I think the point to really take away is that it is cheaper to institute a safety program than to throw the dice and hope for the best. I also believe that it is the ethical thing to do. It will allow you to sleep at night. Most important, sometimes you have to walk away.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Internet Myth: Backhoe on a Train Car

Ok, so we have all seen these pics (sorry some are small). Usually with a caption like "Would you want to work with this guy?"

The Truth:

What you see here is actually very safe and the correct way to do this. This is the Herzog Car Topper System. I learned about them when they were working on a site I was on. Link to the Herzog Car Topper System here:

Herzog has patented this technology. You can not rent one of these, you can't even buy one. When you need this service, you hire Herzog and they send a Cartopper and an operator. The benefits are that you get someone trained correctly in its use and safety (remember that you also have to do site safety training with your subcontractors too).

This is a smart move on Herzog's part to prevent over-regulation or even banning of the Cartopper. If just anyone could rent or buy them then the number of accidents would increase. When accidents increase, OSHA steps in and begins regulation. This way, Herzog ensures that they "fly under the radar" of lawmakers.

You also get a fixed capacity. That is they provide the amount of material that they can handle. You know how much material that you have to move, given the rate, you know how long it will take and how much it will cost. Here are the rates from Herzog's site:

(One Machine)
Cross Ties:
1000 Ties/Hour
1/3 Track Mile/Hour
200 Tons/Hour
120 Tons/Hour

If you look at the bucket, behind the front wheels, and on the outriggers, you will notice special clamps/skids that help the backhoe move along the rail cars. Here is a video of the Cartopper being unloaded:

OSHA re-establishes full protection for demolition and underground construction

On August 17, 2012, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a direct final rule and notice of proposed rule making that applies the requirements of the August 2010 cranes and derricks in construction standard to demolition work and underground construction. The application of this rule will protect workers from hazards associated with hoisting equipment used during construction activities.

The direct final rule will apply the same crane rules to underground construction and demolition that are already being used by other construction sectors, and will streamline OSHA's standards by eliminating the separate cranes and derricks standard currently used for underground and demolition work. The rule making also corrects several errors introduced in the 2010 rule-making to make it easier for workers and employers to understand and implement these standards.

The direct final rule will become effective November 15, 2012, unless OSHA receives a significant adverse comment by September 17. If the agency receives significant adverse comments, the accompanying notice of proposed rule making will allow the agency to continue the notice-and-comment component of the rule making by withdrawing the direct final rule.

The final rule can be viewed here:

Two years ago, on August 9, 2010, OSHA issued new requirements for cranes and derricks used in construction work under Subpart CC. For most construction work, the new Cranes and Derricks in Construction standard replaced the prior cranes and derricks standard, §1926.550, which had been in place for over 40 years.

However, for demolition and underground construction work, the protective requirements of §1926.550 were no longer covered in OSHA's construction regulations. As a result, OSHA had to reestablish the substance of the demolition and underground construction provisions in a new subpart DD, which was in the updated Cranes and Derricks in Construction standard.

A second error was made, however. In the rulemaking process OSHA inadvertently deleted the requirements addressing material, personnel, overhead hoists, and elevators in demolition and underground construction work by requiring employers to follow the requirements of Subpart DD for demolition and underground construction work.

The rule will become effective on November 15, 2012. The specific parts of the Cranes and Derricks in Construction rule that will be affected are:
  • §1926.800(t), Hoisting unique to underground construction.
  • §1926.856(c) Removal of walls, floors, and material with equipment.
  • §1926.858(b) Removal of steel construction.

Some of the updates include:

  • 1926.1427 addresses operator qualification and certification.
  • OSHA established minimum clearance distances for power line safety up to 350 kV for equipment in accordance with Table A of 1926.1408.

Note: The same formula that was used in subpart N (the 10-foot rule) and is similar to Table 1 in ASME B30.5–2004. Unlike subpart N, which required employers to calculate the minimum clearance distance from a formula, Table A sets specified clearance distances in a readily understood table and requires no calculations.
  • Section 1926.1423 Fall Protection, of the OSHA rule, contains provisions designed to protect workers on equipment covered by subpart CC from fall hazards.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Thank You for the Comments...

Thank you for reading my blog and the comments that you leave. I do read them and appreciate the sharing. What you offer is just as informative as what I write. 

Please tell others about this blog.


Safety and Technology

Safety and Technology

As safety professionals, we are victims of technology too. As I stated in my previous post, 10 things that I learned about Safety, just as much as we need to know about safety, we need to know about technology too.

The technology I speak of is not only about the new machines we use in manufacturing, but it is also the ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system.

What is ERP you ask? ERP was not a gunfighter at the O.K. Corral.

 Basically ERP integrates management information from outside your organization with management information inside your organization. ERP knows when a vendor is delivering raw materials so it can schedule more workers to unload the raw materials and have the workers scheduled to start production. You then can utilize your company's ERP system to plan your training. Many ERP systems have a "safety section" built in.

Technology that affects today's safety professional is the desktop computer. It has allowed one person to do the work of a room full of people.


Has replaced this:

So now you as a safety person are expected to be just as efficient. So how do you do that? Technology. Making your training available via the Internet and your company's Intranet.

Intranet? What's that? Think of an Intranet like your company's private Internet. More on Intranets here. Remember my last post, I said "Documentation, documentation, documentation?" Posting your safety program on the Internet or Intranet is documentation.  It is also now a "Written Safety Program."

So what Technology Tools do I Need?

Basic Tools:

Office Program Suites:

At the very least, you need to know an Office Program Suite. This consists of word processor (like MS Word), a spreadsheet program (like MS Excel), and a presentation program (like MS Power Point). I personally switched to Macs (Apple computers) and will not go back to Windows. I use Macs at work and home. I do have to give Microsoft credit, nothing out there beats MS Word. I use MS Office for Mac.

Apple's iWork is a close second. Open Office, is a free Office Program Suite, Sun Microsystems has a more robust version of Open Office called Star Office that is only costs about $80. There are many more like Corel's WordPerfect Office , IBM's Lotus Notes, and many more. A good list can be found here:

There are also great templates and template software for business cards labels, etc. at Avery (link here). The templates are mostly in MS Word (.doc) format.

Microsoft Office Templates (link here) offers free templates to download for resumes, spreadsheets, documents, calendars, presentations, brochures, certificates, labels, business cards, and more for Microsoft Office. I have found some safety templates here and some great presentation templates for training.

Image Programs:

Next you need a good digital picture tool (program). On Windows, I used Irfanview (link here). This is the best image program and it is FREE! Probably the only complaint that people have switching to a Mac is that there is no program like Irfanview for the Mac.

For Macs I use a couple programs to do what Irfanview alone does. I use iResize to resize many images at the same time. I use Batch R-Name (which appears to be no longer available) to do batch renaming of files.

MS has a free program that is called "Paint." For Mac I use a great program that is like Paint on steroids called Skitch (info here).

A note on image programs: These are a very powerful tools. My main tool for inspections and accident investigations is a digital camera. "The camera remembers." What this means is that if my mind forgets, even if I take notes, a picture is like being back at the scene. The camera shows what's wrong and what's right. You can zoom in to see details that you may have missed, even look for things in different spectrums of light.

Advanced Tools:

I use Adobe's Creative Suites (CS4 and CS5.5). These include Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Acrobat, Flash Professional, Flash Builder, Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Premiere, After Effects, Audition, Bridge, Media Encoder, plus more depending on what version you have. I use Photoshop (for image manipulation) and Dreamweaver (for building websites) the most.

A note on Acrobat: Adobe Acrobat Pro (link here) is a very good tool. I would categorize this as a Basic Tool. The Windows version includes Adobe LiveCycle (link here) which is a powerful tool for creating, distributing, and compiling forms. 

I also use TextWrangler which is the free version of BBBEdit which is a code editor. A windows alternative is Notepad++ (which I have never used).

I could write a whole book on this subject. Please leave comments and share tools that you use.

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

I read a very disturbing article today from The Herald Star (link here). The second paragraph stated:
But we remembered what Sarah Ghezzi had told us about preparing for a visit from OSHA, and we were ready. We invited them into our conference room and at first they were very formal advising our boss of his rights and his right to an attorney. They told us an employee had filed a complaint with their office and we were presumed guilty until proven innocent.

I am hoping that someone from OSHA did not say this or this is a typo. But if it is not, then this is VERY DISTURBING! Is OSHA not part of our government? Does our government not presume Innocent Until Proven Guilty?

As a safety person, we need to maneuver the legal system just as much as we maneuver the  job site. Many times government officials take the presumed guilty until proven innocent position because they are protecting someone (presumed) innocent: the police officer protecting children from drug dealers, OSHA protecting workers from the company owner, airport screeners strip searching grandmothers to protect us from terrorists.

What these people don't realize that they are harming more people than they protect by eroding away our civil liberties. We have turned our schools into prisions (metal detectors, uniforms, guards) and then question why our kids behave like criminals.

Note: This is a good lesson for workplace violence prevention. There is a balance to be achieved. Turning your workplace into a prison will not eliminate violence, it may escalate it by creating tension. And what about searching workers to protect trade secrets? You accuse everyone every day of stealing from you. How does that make a person feel?

I digress. Let me clarify a misconception about "Innocent Until Proven Guilty" before I continue. 

First, it should be pointed out that if you did it, you're guilty, no matter what. So you're not innocent unless you're truly innocent. However, our system presumes innocence, which means that legally speaking, even the obviously guilty are treated as though they are innocent, until they are proven otherwise.

The concept of the presumption of innocence is one of the most basic in our system of justice. However, in so many words, it is not codified in the text of the Constitution. This basic right comes to us, like many things, from English jurisprudence, and has been a part of that system for so long, that it is considered common law. The concept is embodied in several provisions of the Constitution, however, such as the right to remain silent and the right to a jury.

OSHA is an organization made up of human beings. Just like anything else human, there are good people and bad people. Not all human intentions are bad, it may be a lack of knowledge of how your good intentions are doing harm.

So, how to deal with OSHA. Always in a professional manner and with respect. I assume the best in people until they give me reason otherwise. I also take the position (as previously stated) that what may appear to be an attack on me may be misguided, good intentions.

So what to do?

Try to get them (OSHA) back on track, you have a safety program, maybe just not a complete program. Put the issue in context to the overall safety.  Missing 10 out of 100 safety issues is better than missing 9 out of 10.

Look at your workplace, are you making an effort to provide a safe work environment? Are there unguarded machine gears everywhere?

Exposed electrical contacts?

Do we do orientation training? Do we do safety training? Just as many "inspections" are not the product of bad intentions, so to many OSHA violations are not the product of bad intentions. I had a client that did lots of safety training. They did tool box talks, production scheduling, and covered any new conditions in the workplace and their safety issues every Monday. What they didn't do is document it. Simple fix: a sign off sheet for every Monday morning. Afterwards the supervisor listed the topics and checked one of 5 boxes next to each:
  1. Safety
  2. Production
  3. Remediation
  4. Employee Concern
  5. Other
Documentation, documentation, documentation. Document everything.

Take pride in your work. If you are proud of your accomplishments and your safety program, then you will not be hiding anything.

Explain your processes, both safety and work. An inspector may be making assumptions, an explanation may clarify the situation.

OSHA knows that most of the employee complaints are from disgruntled employees looking to get back at an employer. For every visit they make, they probably see 1000 complaint that are just retaliation by an employee.

Ask for relevant code. What standard are you supposedly violating? Is the standard clear? Does it even apply.

This will take care of 90% of the inspections.

If push comes to shove. If you are innocent, you may have to get an attorney. Don't be afraid to fight if you are right.

If you are guilty of negligent safety practices, then the only thing  you can do is correct the problems from here on out.

Again, let me reiterate I am hoping that someone from OSHA did not say this or this is a typo. Until we know the truth, I will presume OSHA innocent until proven guilty.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

10 things that I learned about Safety

Recently I had a student who reads my blog, and is a senior at Slippery Rock University for a BS in Safety Management contact me to discuss Safety as a career. I felt great that someone actually reads my blog.

He paid me a compliment, telling me that my blog gave him some practical advice, something that he has not much of being in school still. He is doing an internship that is giving him field experience.

In my first email to him, I tried to impart some wisdom from my experiences and my mistakes. I had taken so much time, thought, and effort to help him out with my response, that I realized that this list would make an excellant blog post. The following is taken from my response to him, cleaned up a little, spell and grammar checked: 

Here are the 10 things that I have learned about Safety:

1.) Training Certifications: The best things that you can be is an outreach trainer for the OSHA 10/30 hour for General Industry, OSHA 10/30 hour for Construction, and to be a powered industrial truck (forklift) trainer. The training is really good and helps you to do hands on training.

The OSHA 10/30 hour courses are great, you meet other professionals (both as students and teachers), you can gain practical, in-the-field knowledge from these people, the OSHA materials (and knowledge you gain) are invaluable.  Best of all, most employers will pay for you to go.

2.) ASP, CSP CHST and OHST: I see a lot of companies look for ASP, CSP CHST and OHST designation, I never went for mine since my job did not depend upon the designation.  I have been told by people who have them, if you know safety (either from hands on, a formal education, or a combination of both), and with some intense review, you will pass. I am now considering going for my ASP or CSP to add to my credentials.

3.) Keep It Interesting: School is boring. It was the same from grade school through high school as it is now. The average American blue collar worker is doing his warehouse/construction job/etc. because he does not want to be an engineer.

When most safety engineers, trainers, managers, etc. do safety training, employees "space out," don't pay attention, or get distracted (I learned this in my early "classroom lecture" sessions), because the training is very boring. Too many numbers to memorize (21" midrail, 4' fall protection, 9.81m/s2 gravity, etc.). Einstein stated, "Never memorize something that you can look up."

My training philosophy is simple, I want you to simply answer the question' "Am I doing my job in the safest way possible?" If not, I want them to know where to find the answer (i.e. know how to read the OSHA Standard) or ask to someone who knows. When I am doing training (this works best over the course of a couple months, but you can also use with 2 day training sessions too), I ask at the beginning how many people wear or make their children wear PPE when they cut their own grass, use power saw, etc. at home. I usually get about 50%. By the end of training it is 90%. This is how I measure the effectiveness of training.

"Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school." - Albert Einstein

4.) W. Edwards Deming: I apply the teachings of W. Edwards Deming ( to my training, one example: (Deming believed) the production worker knows more about the process than management. The production worker knows (more than management) how to ensure quality (safety) the best.  Statistical Quality Control: I watch claims to look for trends in my organization to find things that are becoming a problem.

Basically just replace the word "quality" in Deming's teachings with the word "safety."

5.) It is all about the question: Just like Philosophy, Safety should pursue questions rather than answers. The responsibility of philosophy is not so much to answer our questions as to question given answers.  

See: (Philosophy in general) and (the Philosophical method).

When I see someone working, I will ask, "should you be wearing safety glasses?" Now I do not expect them to just put on safety glasses and continue working, I want them to justify to me why they should or should not be wearing them. Regardless of the answer, even if it was "I am being dumb," it is a learning moment.

6.) Hands On: W. Edwards Deming's teachings also taught me that people learn more by doing. I prefer to "go in the field," watch how people work, participate (this goes a long way in building report and respect). The people you are training begin to think, "the safety guy is not too good to get his hands dirty or to do my job," they open up more to what you say, and they get trained as they work. This integrates safety in to their job. Now they think part of my job is being safe, wearing PPE and NOT I do my job, now I have a 2nd job to be safe, I can't do 2 things at once."

7.) Safety is about the bottom line: Think Pinto ( Ford allegedly was aware of the design flaw, refused to pay for a redesign, and decided it would be cheaper to pay off possible lawsuits. The first thing that business cuts is safety, marketing is the second. You have to show how safety saves money: it improves quality, cuts costs. Those costs are mainly insurance: workers' comp, liability, etc. You should be familiar with insurance terms and how it works. Even companies that say "because it is the right thing to do" say it because there is a financial benefit.

Note: I think that Ford does an excellent job with safety and I would highly recommend them. I currently drive a Ford, and my last 2 cars were Fords.

Note: This does not mean that "doing the right thing" is not really their philosophy, I would like to believe that all companies and all people are inherently good and strive to do the right thing. Even if it is your philosophy, you do not have to say it, AND there is a financial benefit from saying it.

8.) I do not always agree with OSHA: Take the "OSHA cowboy," for example. You need common sense. OSHA is also incorporating too many ANSI standards. That is good to "standardize" in a global economy (Like the GHS for labeling), but to access ANSI standards, companies have to buy them. If OSHA says that your program has to meet ANSI standard, then where do you find the ANSI standard Saying PPE safety glasses meet ANSI z87 is fine. I also believe in personal responsibility. I train that "You are ultimately responsible for your own safety."

9.) Never stop learning: Even though I have an MBA, insurance licenses, state safety inspection license, I am an OSHA outreach trainer, various other certificates and certifications, I continue to learn. I am continuing part-time for a CIS (Computer Information Systems)/Web Development degree part time at the local community college. I am just over half-way done with it.

Joining ASSE (American Society of Safety Engineers) let me meet people with years of knowledge who were willing to share and help me with my professional career. I have been a member for over 10 years! I also keep up to date with a number of safety web sites. I like web sites that let me scan the headlines and open/read the stories that interest me. Professional friends and colleagues go a long way. If you are stuck, ask them. Somebody has dealt with this before, and can give you a quick answer.

10.) Technology: we live in a technological world. Years ago you could do a job by learning that discipline. Today you need that discipline plus knowledge about technology. Accountants use to need to know just the "bookkeeping" aspect of what they do. Today, they also need to know the computer programs that do it (Peachtree, Great Plains/MS, Quickbooks, MS Office Oracle, SAP).

Safety professionals too need the same skills. To really excel, you need to be able to make your company's written safety program web-based. What about web-based training? How do convert a Power Point to a video? Is your online training SCORM compliant? What if the company you work for uses Oracle's HR system? OSHA is an example of the use of technology making it a very good online safety resource.

Many companies use Twitter, Facebook, other social media, and expect some of their employees (usually upper management) to do the same (to promote the brand). Now there is a new thing called "Social Learning." It is the use/intergration of social media into the teaching/learning (online) model.

Younger people have an advantage with social media. I do know some insurance brokers who have their administrative assistant do Twitter/Facebook/blog posts on their behalf. There are not enough hours in a day to keep up with social media. Large companies have in-house social media departments and there are many new companies that manage social media for companies or individuals.

Friday, April 27, 2012

High Visibility Clothing

High visibility clothing is fast becoming the norm for industry. Europe, the Middle East, and Asia have strong requirements for workers to wear hi-vis clothing, many people are wearing it for non-work-related activities, Europe has hi-vis requirements for stranded motorists, and here in the US there are more and more requirements for workers.

Europe (especially England) have the strongest requirements for hi-vis clothing. They look a bit odd when you are not used to them, but they are worn fairly rigorously by construction workers, police, and others likely to be crossing in the way of traffic at unexpected times and places. This is carrying over to children walking to school, and a host of other

It has not caught on in the US yet. I compare hi-vis clothing to the aritcle I once read in a discussion of why bicycle helmets aren't really thick enough to prevent concussions: "when helmets get too thick, they look like a mushroom on the rider's head, and consumer acceptance drops like a stone." US cyclists who dress up like Tour de France riders and worry about whether their heads look like mushrooms.

This may have something to do with the observation (made with respect to automobile-buying tastes) that Europeans are more concerned with avoiding accidents, while Americans (despite their self-image as can-do optimists) are fatalistic about accidents, and largely concerned with surviving them.

British workers installing solar panels wearing hi-vis vests, but NOT wearing fall protection. (The vests make it easier to find the bodies.)
Irish workers in hi-vis clothing.
In the United States in 2008, it became law that if you are standing on the side of the road doing any kind of reporting you MUST wear a safety vest.
Dubai is dictating that cyclists must wear helmets and high-visibility jackets.
It's a "high visibility" kilt made by Blåkläder, which is the European equivalent of Dickies here in the states (both produce quality workwear). This was obviously geared toward the Scottish road/construction crews. Apparently it was also discovered by the young rave crowd in Britain.
A wine taster at the Moss Wood Vinards in Australia
Workers in South Africa.
Beckham meets workers on his trip to Stratford.
Children in Europe wear hi-vis clothing to and from school.
The Queen wearing a hi-vis vest.
Law enforcement throughout Europe wear hi-vis clothing. Here are Sweedish police officers. Even their vehicle is hi-vis.
Sarah Brown of England's Labour Party.
Even protesters are wearing hi-vis clothing.

British protesters wearing hi-vis vests.
Greece; Protestors with safety vests and gas masks. Protesting against austerity cuts.

Can safety be taken too far?

Spanish prostitutes (Prostitution legal in Spain) have been ordered to wear reflective safety vests for their own safety, according to reports. Women working on rural roadsides in Catalonia must don the vests to avoid a €40 ($56) fine.