A Surefire way to improve your chances of survival – Emergency Kit

 

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It’s a wake up call.  One humungous wet, windy wake up call.  When hurricane Harvey blasted into southwest Texas leaving extensive damage and flooding, the scale of which is all most beyond comprehension.  Then hurricane Irma took the spotlight unleashing her fury on the Caribbean and Florida.  This is very sad and horrible on so many levels of loss and human suffering and now people who decided to ride out the storm in the keys are stranded, cut off from the world without food, water or power.  I’m sure when most of you heard that, you said to yourself, “Really need to put that survival kit together.”  A fabulous thought that will unfortunately fade along with the coverage of the epic catastrophes until it becomes “Texas, Florida a year later” and then again you’ll say, “Really need to put that survival kit together.” and then one day, the dam breaks, the fires burn rampant, the earth shakes, rattles and rolls.  No kit!!  Now, did you have a plan B?

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Did you notice how fast conditions on the ground changed, from dry to chest high water and did you also notice how with a slight change in direction, Irma hit areas that thought there were originally safe?  That’s how natural disasters work.  No warning, no how do you do, no pleased to meet you, just HERE!  If you think I’m going to use these disasters to motivate you to prepare and give yourself and advantage to survive something like this, well, you would be correct!  You never know when an earthquake is going to hit, you don’t know how bad it’ll flood, you don’t know where the twister will touch down,you just don’t know.  That’s why we buy insurance, hoping to never need it, but very happy that it’s there and by preparing an emergency chest/barrel/kit will give you insurance to be able to survive the first week of an event, but hope you’ll never need it.

A lot of cities, of all sizes struggle daily with their budgets and the cost of firefighters, police, infrastructure repair & maintenance, parks and recreation, public transit, administrative staffing, courts, pensions and lawsuits.  The level of city services are not what they once were and that includes the number of police and fire on duty at any given time and in the event of a natural disaster they would be immediately tied up responding to the hundreds of calls they would receive in the first few hours, (In Houston area alone they had over 75,000 emergency calls in the first four days).  They will triage the calls and handle the most serious including bleeding and severe trauma first, those with minor injuries will have to wait or treat themselves.  Depending on the conditions of the roads in and out of town, additional off duty first responders could be greatly delayed if at all able to report to work in the city or town they serve. 

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That’s why a survival kit comes in handy especially if you are able to stay in your home after the event.  After checking on those in the household the first thing you’ll do is a walk around your property and check to make sure it is still structurally safe to stay in and there is no smell of gas.  Now you can stay put and you have supplies to wait the few days until power and water come back online and life come back to normal.  Putting your survival kit together can be a fun family project and learning experience.  It’s also a great opportunity for a team building exercise for a company or safety committee.

My Survival Chest – This is what I used and put together for our home of two adults and one dog.  I was able to purchase just about everything on Amazon.com.  Use you imagination when it comes to the container and what you want to stash for an emergency. 

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A Rubbermaid 50 gallon capacity container, water proof and made of sturdy plastic, it’s durable and on wheels in case you have to move. Yellow so it can easily been seen.

 

 

 

Now, what and how much to put in your survival chest.  Base the amounts to store on a worse case scenario for your location.  How isolated are you?  Are you in city limits?  Are there bridges?  How many people and pets are you planning for?  You should also plan on 72 – 96 hours before all utilities and services are restored so a 3 – 5 day supply of food and water should be adequate.  

 

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WATER – Plan on 2 gallons per person per day. One gallon for drinking and one gallon for hygiene, sanitation and other.  Multiply 2 gallons with the number of people in the home and don’t forget to include water for your pets.  I have a mixture of bottled water and packaged sterilized water.  I would also add one or two of the straw water filter tools just in case things don’t get back to normal right away and you begin to run low on bottled water.  You can also boil water to sterilize it and if fire isn’t possible, keep a small bottle of bleach in your kit.  It can be used for purifying water for drinking, 8 drops for a gallon of water, shake and wait thirty minutes.  

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FOOD – Any combination of what you enjoy of prepared camping meals, fruits and canned goods (make sure to include a can opener) as well as some of your favorite snacks, power bars and chocolate which will come in handy to help with the stress.  Don’t forget to store emergency food for your pets as well.

 

 

 

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RADIO/CHARGER/BATTERIES – There are several radio choices but the ones that come with a hand crank/battery/solar powered are fabulous.  You can leave it in the sun all day to charge or use the hand crank.  It also can be used to charge your phone if you don’t have a portable charger.  The radio is both AM and FM as well as _________  

 

 

 

 

Flashlights/batteries/Candles and matches/fire starter – With no electricity you’ll have to rely on flashlights, candles and lanterns to illuminate the area.  This is very important for everyones safety especially if there is debris on the ground.  Never leave candles unattended.  Check the battery size requirements of all your items and store extra batteries in your kit.   

First aid kit/non latex gloves – A first aid kit can help you greatly for treating minor injuries.  If you need to treat a neighbor or stranger, the non latex gloves will help protect you.

Sleeping bags/tents – If your home is not safe to stay in but you have a large yard in the front or back you may want to set up tents for protection from the elements.  Even if you can stay in your home, to help get the kids through this, set the tents up and pretend you’re on a family camping trip.  Also keep a tarp in your kit as well to help protect from rain or use to keep you off the ground or help move someone who can’t get around on their own.

Blankets/warm clothes – Natural disasters don’t care what time of year it is so be prepared and keep some extra sweatshirts, jackets in the kit along with blankets to those chilly nights.

Make sure to keep an inventory of what’s in your emergency kit along with the expiration dates of those items so you can replace them when needed.  Also designate a meet area so you know everyone who was in the house or apartment is out.  In the event of an emergency, phone traffic will be crazy as people call 911 for assistance, family members calling to say they’re fine and family members calling to find out if loved ones are fine not to mention the possibility of downed cell towers.  I suggest you designate a family member who lives in another state as the contact person you can call to say you are fine and then let them contact everyone else about your status.  

You can get more information about how to prepare for a natural disaster or other emergencies by going to the FEMA web site at fema.gov and get stuff like a Earthquake Safety Checklist and other great information.  Check it out but don’t wait too long as it’ll be hard to research and prepare when you’re in the middle of a disaster.  Really, do it now!

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The Green Brick Road of Safety-A Chronicle

 

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Dorothy was a machine operator for over 10 years at the Lyon Metals Processing Plant, during which time she attended numerous safety meetings.  At least once a year the topic the safety manager covered in detail was how employees were to respond in the event of an emergency evacuation for either a fire, hazardous spill or natural disaster.  Her first line supervisor also held safety tailgates at least once a week and spoke on occasion about tornados, shelter and place and evacuations.  However, Dorothy never thought it important enough to really pay attention to any of the lectures nor even bothered to read the many multi colored company hand outs, explaining what to do and where to meet if an evacuation were to ever occur.  They just lined the bottoms of her locker and car floor and on occasion were used to jot a shopping list.  Dorothy thought if an emergency ever did come up she would just follow the lead of her fellow workers and go where they go and along with the fact she had worked all these years without incident gave her enough of a false sense of security that she didn’t worry or felt concerned about her safety at the plant.

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The day began as one of those quiet uneventful Saturday mornings at the plant.  Dorothy volunteered to work overtime so she could buy new halloween decorations, she loved halloween.  Dorothy wasn’t working alone, since her company believed for safety reasons no one could be at or work alone.  Her partner had stepped away for a break while Dorothy hung back to finish making a few adjustments when the weather quickly turned ugly and the uneventful Saturday turned into a tornado watch that was issued for the county.   Then… it happened.

As Dorothy continued, solely focused on her machine, the shelter and place alarm began to sound.  Dorothy didn’t know what to do, she didn’t know whether the number of blasts of the horn meant fire and evacuate or shelter and place or lunch!   She stood there looking frantic, her partner never came back, there was no one else around to ask, no one around to follow, what should I do!  As the tornado came bearing down on the Lyon Metals plant, the alarm blasts repeated, her mind raced, she tried hard to think, then the building began to shake and windows rattled and the skies got darker.  It was happening all too fast, she was distracted with all the activity and sounds.  Now the roof over her began to peel away exposing the gray spinning clouds of the tornado.  She froze in fear and waited her fate when suddenly, she remembered the sign in the shipping modular office that said, “shelter”!  She turned to run to the modular office only feet away as the walls began to buckle and she dodged the flying shop materials like a running back.  Just as she made it into the office, it was ripped off the floor as the tornado pulled it up into the sky.  Dorothy watched in horror as the modular office spun and rose high in the air until a desk, sliding across the floor knocked her hard to the ground.

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Dorothy sat up and looked out the dispatchers window and realized the office module was still spinning around within the tornado. There was movement outside the office that caught the corner of her eye.  It was Bob!  OMG, Bob got sucked up into the tornado too!  Bob was the accident prone maintenance man who has electrocuted himself several times, never using LOTO.  He once set himself on fire after washing his dirty hands with gasoline and then tried to light a cigarette.  hHere he was just flying around with a broom in his hand. Maybe I should get his attention.  Wait!  Isn’t that Tom in his electric car?  Our CFO and head bean counter?!  Tom believes putting money into safety prevention is a waste of money.  Isn’t it funny to see him here in the twister with me.  Dorothy pulled herself up off the floor and slid open the counter window.  Tom!  Tom, over here!  “I don’t think he can hear you”, the voice behind her said.  Dorothy turned around and there was Pete, the forklift driver.  Pete didn’t like following the rules for forklifts, he believed that pedestrians needed to watch out for him, not the other way around.  She asked Pete, what are you doing here?  “Well I was about to overload the tail end of that trailer so he gets stopped at the scales BUT it looks like we’re coming down for a landing now.  Hold tight, we’re coming in hard and fast.”  Dorothy shut her eyes tight and grabbed hold of the desk that had knocked her over and prayed when everything went black!

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She awoke, lying on the floor and took a quick self inventory to find only a large but painful bump on the back of her head.  As she looked around the office, she had no idea how long she had been out.  It was very quiet, the loud train sound of the tornado was gone and the office wasn’t moving any longer but there was also no noise or activity going on outside.  No emergency vehicles, no heavy equipment, nothing.  She stood up as sore as she was and called out, Pete!  She saw no Pete or anyone else in the office as the sun shinning through the windows highlighted the rubble mess .  She thought, maybe they’re all outside waiting for help?  She stepped out of the modular office that was sitting in the middle of a green brick path.  There was no one around.  Nothing.  Just the path, trees, an unrecognizable terrain and Dorothy knew, she wasn’t in Kansas any more.

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Her journey begins.  Don’t miss an episode, get witzshared delivered directly by email.

 

 

RBMB-Exceeded Limitations

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We all deal with limitations of one sort or another and at times we have depended on machinery of some type to help us compensate for those limitations.  However, we tend to become enamored by their speed and strength and forget that those pieces of industrial powered machinery have limits themselves as we take them for granted and push them beyond the tasks they’ve been designed for.  That means it falls upon us humans to protect the machinery and make sure they don’t exceed their capabilities so they can keep us safe at the same time.

It really burns my butt that workers are being injured and killed due to mis-information or lack of communication on what task their machine can do safely or the weight capacities of equipment.  By following the steps below, you can protect yourself, prevent accidents or serious injuries at work if YOU know what to look for when it comes to equipment limitations .

Step 1 – Certification:  When you were hired and your job involves the operating of any kind of industrial powered trucks/equipment you should have first received a general safety orientation and then been trained and certified by the company to operate that piece of equipment.  If you were certified on a powered pallet jack and you need to operate a forklift, you need to be certified again for the operation of that forklift as well.  

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Step 2 – Data Plate:  During the certification process you were introduced to the “data plate”.  This plate is very important since it’s an I.D. the manufacturer has put together to tell you how much weight you can move safely in the facility without having to worry about tip over.  It will also come in handy and help you for those times you may have to operate a different type of forklift.  The weight you can move with a diesel powered forklift is more then an electric and you would learn this by reading the data plate.  In fact, the data plate is so important that it is a OSHA violation to operate any powered vehicle without a date plate.  So if your industrial powered truck is missing the plate, immediately inform your supervisor via the daily checklist and verbally.  

Step 3 – Seatbelt:  Always wear a seatbelt when operating your forklift.  The manufacturer has designed your forklift to protect you within it’s cage, so if you do unfortunately experience a tip over, the seat belt will keep you within that cage and safe so you don’t wind up under a 8,000 pound forklift.

Step 4 – Modifications to any piece of equipment should be approved and done by the manufacturer of the equipment only!  They know how to safely add any modifications so the equipment will continue to operate properly.  As soon as the modifications are completed it is critical to have retraining of operators so they know how the modifications affect operation.

Step 5 – New Equipment:  When ever you get any new piece of equipment, before anyone is allowed to touch it, training needs to be given.  Why?  Where is the emergency shut off, what are the weight limitations, are there exposed moving parts?  I always reccommend that the manufacturers representative do the initial training to management and staff so questions can be asked by all on the equipment and then later you can develop your own training for in-house use.  

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Step 6 – Quick huddle:  When you find that your crew has to operate equipment that hasn’t been used in a while, like seasonal equipment such as a snow plow or large industrial vehicles like a boom lift, take the few minutes and have a quick huddle to go over and remind everyone on proper operation, it’s limitations and any safety reminders related to operation of the equipment.  Those few minutes taken to explain and remind can avoid hours of accident investigation and/or a trip to the E.R.

Don’t let anyone ever push you to operate equipment beyond it capabilities, limitations and safety limits.  Don’t let anyone ever push you to operate equipment in need of repair and unsafe to operate even if it’s “only this once”.  If it doesn’t sound right to you, ask questions and if you don’t get answers and still being bullied to do the wrong thing, call the OSHA hotline at 1-800-321-6742 (OSHA).  Never keep quiet about safety, for the life you save may be your own.

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Companies Behaving Badly-YEAR END

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Welcome back, Happy Holidays, thank you for stopping by.  As you may know, OSHA recently released it’s annual top 10 violations for 2016 which quickly made the rounds. People offered their opinions about it,  criticized and pointed wagging fingers as those for more regulation and those for less regulation stood their ground on principle refusing to compromise while people continued to die.  So without further ado, may I present to you OSHA’s top 10 violations for 2016.
#1 – FALLS
#2 – HAZARD COMMUNICATION
#3 – SCAFFOLDING
#4 – RESPIRATORY PROTECTION
#5 – LOCK OUT TAG OUT
#6 – POWERED INDUSTRIAL TRUCKS
#7 – LADDERS
#8 – MACHINE GUARDING
#9 – ELECTRCAL WIRING METHODS
#10 – ELECTRICAL GENERAL REQUIREMENTS
NOW A MESSAGE FROM THE GRIM REAPER.   FALLS #1, 6 years in a row!!!
THANK YOU!
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This information is nice so we know how we stack up against others in the country and where resources and training may need to be directed but is it really useful information? What does it tell us besides giving us reason to be thankful and feel superior since we were lucky enough to have experienced none of the violations on the list?  So instead of the OSHA top ten I would like to offer my Top 5 violations for 2016.
#1 – GREED.  The love of profits over the love of humanity. No money spent of safety, in fact the word isn’t even allowed to be spoken but if safety generated income for a business, it’d never be an issue.  Ever.
#2 – STUPIDITY.  You can’t coach stupid nor can you manage stupid but people seem somehow to still do so by putting people in danger, over riding safety shut off mechanisms to keep production going at all costs, adjusting machinery without using LOTO or blocking emergency exits with merchandise and equipment. That’s half of stupid, the other half are those who refuse to wear PPE or use fall protection gear and consistently put themselves in harms way.
#3 – LACK OF TRAINING.  Why waste time and energy in training employees on how to respond to an emergency whether fire, chemical or natural, it’ll never happen here, right?  Or how to properly use and wear PPE or how to properly operate a forklift.  Too much information in too little time.  They’ll learn as they go.  What could go wrong?
#4 – LACK OF RESPECT – for your workforce.  Don’t treat them as idiots, give them the materials and training they need to be successful and do their job with confidence. Explain what the expectations are and the consequences for non compliance and say Thank You for a job well done.
#5 – COMMUNICATION – This includes listening to your employees concerns about working conditions and process improvement and then answering those concerns with feedback and developing an on going conversation of respect to solve issues and make your operation stronger.

Hope you appreciate my top 5.  Now lets finish the year looking at other disturbing trends from 2016 that’ll continue into 2017.

The continued lack of leadership that prevails at the US Postal Service.  Blood incidents prompt OSHA to fine Brooklyn Postal Service location $342,000 – How stupid is the leadership?  Pretty damn stupid and the workers know it since they filed a complaint with OSHA that found 2 WILLFUL and 3 REPEAT violations.  3 Repeat!!!  Which means they never bothered to fix the problem of not having written instructions or training for workers responsible for handling and cleaning up biohazard packages that are stained or leaking. Managers also did not offer hepatitis B vaccines to affected employees.  It’s a wonder that your junk mail even gets to you!  I predict you’ll be reading more stories of violations at the USPS next year since management has proven it’s incapable of finding it’s own way out of a paper bag.

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Continued lapses of safety on our railroads and ignoring the fixes needed for infrastructure to ensure protection of civilian lives. N.J. Transit Safety Jobs Vacant as Christie Allies Hired at Top – Some politicians, actually only the clueless ones bent on personal power think the way to fix a problem is to hire their friends to top management positions or by making new and “better” laws when all that is needed is to fill the open positions with employees who do the job at hand and not brown nose their way through.  While accidents continue on one of the worst transit systems in the world the Governor thinks it’s better not to fill the safety positions since they’ll ask for money to fix it while his buddies will keep the status quo and let constituents continue to die.  I guess the transit system isn’t as easy to take care of as the George Washington bridge.   Look for continued lack of a plan and leadership into the next year and beyond.

Continue to poison ourselves, our water supply and the environment because we are too cavalier on chemical safety.  New Martinsville chemical plant cited for workplace-safety violations – We need chemicals for food production, building materials, cars, planes, homes and just about anything you can think of but why are we so sloppy and careless about handling it?  Could it be that it maybe takes 20 years for the exposure to show up as a health problem?  Could it be that we truly believe the planet can handle all those chemicals in the air, land, streams, rivers and oceans to dilute and render them to harmless?  Could it be that chemical companies find it a needless expense to make all the needed safety measures and training to prevent chemical injury and death?  Either way, YOU as a employer, whether a supermarket or chemical plant are responsible to train your workers on what they are working with, it’s potential hazards, the proper PPE needed and how to handle in a spill or other emergency.  However I predict this also will continue to be ignored since we never learned anything after the 1984 Bhopal, India gas leak that killed 4,000 humans immediately and residual effects claiming a total of 15,000 human lives!!!  If you think it can’t happen here, you’re just in denial or brain dead.  

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Continued deaths of civilians due to budget cuts and lack of leadership at all major and small cities. Operator accused of ignoring safety in deadly Oakland warehouse fire and Fire Chief: We were not aware what was going on in Ghost Ship – What happened in Oakland, California at the Ghost Ship Warehouse is just the canary in the mine warning f0r all cities.  Due to the competition by city departments for that little slice of the budget pie, things are not getting done and the leadership instead of thinking outside the box and developing solutions to working with what they have are just crying about it and doing NOTHING!  Between all the departments within the city, Ghost ship slipped through the cracks and now people are dead.  The mayor of Oakland at one point stated we need better laws but this is just rhetoric since all you had to do was enforce the current laws and better leadership developing communication between the departments instead of every man or woman for themselves.  If you think this can’t happen in your town, then think again.  When you city is more hell bent on saving the baseball team or football team from leaving, the safety of it’s citizens is a moot point.  Time to wake up Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and Vallejo.  Sure there’s a knee jerk reaction happening now and everyone is aware but over time this will fade, things won’t get done and we’ll all be horrified again when it happens again.

That does it for now.  I greatly appreciate your support over the year and wish you all a Happy Hanukkah and a very Merry Christmas.  After the interesting year we’ve had it’s nice to see the show of solidarity by Hanukkah and Christmas as they begin back to back. As you visit family and friends remember to please not drink and drive or drive distracted. Be your own fire marshall and safety inspector to protect your home and family from fire, accidents or visits to the ER.  If you’re into making resolutions for the new year, resolve to be a better person to you fellow human beings, treat them with respect, be polite and especially be kind to those less fortunate then you.  There is a lot of love out there and we can obliterate the hate with it.  Until next year, never keep quiet about safety for the life you save may be your own.

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The CERT Experience

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I recently had the pleasure to complete a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team ) class offered by the Vallejo Fire Department.  After 6 weeks of class every Tuesday evening which totaled 28 hours of instruction, demonstration and practice, that all came to completion on a beautiful Saturday morning on Mare Island with a final written exam, practical/drill and the breaking of bread between us new team members and our firefighter instructors.  

The instructors were fantastic, all of them seasoned veterans sharing their years of experience and knowledge.  The CERT program coordinator for Vallejo is Captain Eric Strom who is an excellent instructor, very good speaker who’s easy to listen too with a great sense of humor.  Not once did I feel bored or lulled into a nap, but that also could have been due to the robust firehouse coffee.  Captain Strom had a fantastic support group of fellow first responders as instructors; Battalion Chief Cliff Campbell, Captains Morty Culverwell and Art Gonzales and Engineer Ben Hill were all just as captivating and that’s what makes the course so worthwhile.  You are not only learning the materials in the course guidebook on what to do, which is pretty much black and white but you’re getting first hand accounts of actual real life incidents from first responders and what their thought process was on how they handled a situation.  You learn a lot including about our city fire department and you develop even more respect for what they deal with on a daily basis.  You also can network with other Vallejoans taking the course and build bridges.

godzilla I highly recommend the course.  Why should you take it?  The reality is cities of all sizes struggle daily with their budgets and the cost of firefighters, police, infrastructure repair & maintenance, parks and recreation, public transit, administrative staffing, courts, pensions and lawsuits.  The level of city services are not what they once were and that includes the number of police and fire on duty.  That means for those of you who live in areas where natural disasters can occur, like tornadoes in Oklahoma, hurricanes in Florida or earthquakes in California, when they happen, you and your family could be on your own for a few days if not weeks waiting for gas, water and electricity to return along with other services.  In Vallejo there are only 21 firefighters on duty each shift, that means in the event of a severe quake, they would be tied up responding to the hundreds of calls they would receive after.  Depending on the conditions of the roads in and out of town, additional off duty first responders could be greatly delayed if at all able to get here. The hospitals will be flooded with all kinds of injuries from walking wounded to severe trauma.  This mean you will have to shut off your own gas and water if needed as the fire department responds to the areas hardest hit and/or where fires may be happening.  It means that the fire department will use their resources the most efficient way possible to save the most lives.  So your son’s broken arm may be an immediate priority to you, but the burning seniors center will be the priority to them.

 

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“Main Street, USA” Where search and rescue drills are conducted.

We were lucky in this town for the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 but we sure got a wake up call from the 2014 Napa quake and this program teaches you how to be prepared by putting together a disaster kit, emergency supplies and how you can take care of yourself, family and then neighbors, like a broken arm, after a disaster, allowing firefighters to concentrate on the higher priority calls.  It’s like car insurance.  You hope you never have to use it but if you are in an accident or it’s stolen, you have piece of mind.  Same with the disaster kit.   You hope you never need it but nice to know it’s there.

You can take what you want out of the class.  Self preservation after the big one, doomsday preparation but I think the intent is to help develop a sense of community.  All to often you don’t know a neighbor until something bad like a disaster comes along.  Sure you nod or wave at each other but how well do you know them?  Are they frail, do they have physical limitations or other factors that limit their mobility.  Do they live alone and will they need assistance in an emergency or do they have skills that can help everyone in the neighborhood?   Don’t wait for the next disaster to meet them, get to know them now before you’re thrown together into a blender cause the anonymity happens.  My wife and I had lived in our first apartment together for 8 months before I was transferred to the bay area.  The day we were moving,  the woman who lived in the apartment next door came out and asked if we were moving in.  Never did get her name.

Don’t know when the next class is scheduled to happen but if you’re interested it may be a good idea to email secretary, City of Vallejo, Fire Department, Fire Prevention Division: Shirley.Herbert@city of vallejo.net  and let her know you’re interested in taking the next class. 

Next installment we’ll take a look at putting together an emergency supply chest.

 

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Companies Behaving Badly – Toxic Culture

 

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Each and every company has its own unique identity beginning with its name and logo to its style on how it conducts business, its behavior dealing with customers, vendors and  especially how their own workers are treated, it’s ethics, it’s morals, it’s CULTURE.  Make no mistake about it, the culture of a company is always determined by the people in control at the very top by what they allow and accept when it comes to enforcing the rules and policy.  If upper management only accepts the commitment to excellence in the execution of daily tasks, meeting goals and maintaining high ethics while caring for the health and wellbeing of their workers, then that’s going to be the culture down to the shop floor.  Productivity is high, accidents are very low, workers enjoy their job and the company makes money.  Those who fail to maintain excellence are retrained, punished and or banished from the kingdom.  

However, if management accepts a unaccountable, below parr, sloppy, unsafe and dangerous operation that under performs but excels in finger pointing and excuses with no solutions but full of contempt then that’s the culture that will prevail right down to the shop floor.  Those who try to maintain a higher standard and a commitment to excellence are branded trouble makers, punished and or banished from the kingdom.  You will see in the stories below that culture does make a difference and that a culture of uncaring an lack safe conditions, costs more money in the long run and creates unhappy workers and high turnover.  There are also times when distance is out of sight, out of mind.  A corporation may have the good culture going but in a remote warehouse or distant plant where the leadership is poor or lazy, the message may have gotten lost.  Sometimes all it takes is to hear a new voice with a gentle reminder to get things back on track.  Don’t sit back and watch, become part of the solution and never keep quiet about safety.

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Let’s begin with the N.J. transit system.   APNewsBreak: NJ Transit tops list of accidents, safety fines  This has been an accident waiting to happen for the last 5 years.  In an atmosphere of incompetent unaccountable leadership a culture of complacency and benign neglect developed and spread throughout the system.  No one cared in upper management so no one else cared in the system. The second largest commuter railroad has been involved in 157 accidents since 2011 causing more than $6 Million in damages.  A great deal of the accidents were caused by speeding and drug impairment as 33 of the violations from OSHA included drug or alcohol use which is another red flag of a toxic culture and management never saw it or did anything about it.  OSHA has found a total of 183 violations against them and they’ve paid $519,280 in fines.  The problem is the leadership is so bad and their trust level is nil that they need to replace all of management and begin new with training, evaluations, terminations and build new trust to make sure workers and commuters are not taking potential hazards to work.  It is also sad that public tax money is being wasted. 

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First we heard about the problems with employee fights and other issues at a Blue Apron facility in Richmond, California and of course they said, oh, we know and we have it under control.  Now it turns out there were very similar if not worse issues in the Blue Apron’s busy New Jersey facility a real fight club  This is a culture that was not prepared at all to hire workers or establish good relationships with temp agencies.  Someone in upper management decided they didn’t care if the workers were properly trained and selected for positions they would be successful in.  They thought just pouring bodies into the job would get it done better and faster and sounds like the supervisors they hired had no clue on leadership.  It didn’t work and blew up in their faces and who knows how many mis-shipped orders went out along with warehouse shrinkage and employee turnover this has been one valuable lesson.  Hope they learned.  When it comes to seasonal hiring or additional hiring for your expanded business you need to take the process seriously.  Give the temp agency job descriptions with as much detail as possible so they have the opportunity to find the workers that fit your needs the best.  Take the time to train them, how, what, where, when and why?  They need information to get the job right and most of all make sure safety is covered in the orientation as well.  

Yes, another US Postal Service story.  This is a totally dysfunctional culture with absolutely no leadership and won’t waste much time on it as many of you know how I feel about this organization.  I really feel for those who must work here.  OSHA Cites US Postal Service After 2 Des Moines Workers Suffer Heat Illness While Delivering the Mail  I’m not going to say anything other then you have to take care of your employees, their safety should come first since they’re the ones who make you look good as a supervisor.

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There has been a lot of press lately about how difficult it has been for the construction industry to fill jobs especially the high skilled jobs.  Seems like people are not showing the interest for skilled construction jobs.  Then you read, OSHA’s 10 most common job site violations for construction which has falls as number one and then read Here Are OSHA’s Top 10 Most Cited Violations Of 2016 and falls are again #1.  Hmmm.  Could those be the reasons people are not going into the industry?  Like manufacturing, the construction industry needs to make some serious changes on how it treats people, their training for the job and take a very serious stance for safety on the job and insisting on safety PPE to attract a more diverse group of people to help reduce the labor shortage.  That also means treating women with respect as well as people of different cultural and religious backgrounds.  

Even in a galaxy far far away, it’s still not far enough to escape the long arm of the United Kingdom’s HSE (Health and Safety Executive) who fined the Star Wars production company $2 Million for Harrison Ford’s broken leg suffered on the set. ‘Star Wars’ Production Company Fined for Harrison Ford Accident  Glad to see the British government protecting Han Solo.

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What’s going on in the great state of Illinois?  Workplace Deaths Increase 28 Percent Since 2013.  In 2016 alone, 36 people have died in industrial accidents and the year still has two and a half months.  Complacency is part of the problem.  Things go so well you let your guard down and then, IT happens.  It’s the end of a shift, you’re tired and in a rush to go home.  Your mind is not focused, you don’t notice the puddle of oil and you slip and fall. You think LOTO may take to long and you want to, just get this done so you do and now you’re sitting in pain in the ER with 2 of your fingers in a bag of ice as you still can’t believe how fast that happened.  You get the point.  Safety is always on.  It never takes a sick or vacation day.  It never relaxes in the break room or has a coffee and it never shows up late but it does work OT and you always want it to be there.  When workplace safety begins to get out of adjustment at work, the safety tailgate meetings stop, PPE is not always worn and people stop reporting hazards or following procedure it’s time for YOU to help get it all back on track.  You are part of the solution and you should ask for your safety meetings, insist on PPE and never keep quiet about safety.  Sometimes it just takes a friendly reminder to get even the best program back on track.

Until next month, stay safe my friends.

 

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Companies Behaving Badly-Negligent

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Welcome back and thank you for stopping by.  In most companies, you as an employee are held accountable for your actions at work, whether it’s following safety rules, operational procedures, meeting daily production goals or how you respond to others.  You understand that repeatedly violating those “rules”, will be documented by your employer until enough is enough and you are terminated from the company.  However, when an organization doesn’t bother to follow the rules and is poorly run to the point where it puts employees and customers in danger, why isn’t the leadership held as accountable?  The corporation is the one who pays the fines not the individuals.

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So what do you do if you have the misfortune to work for one of those companies that behave badly like Dollar Stores or the US Postal Service, (both have been in the news a lot this year for doing everything possible to try and kill their workers)?  As I see it, you have three choices.  You can quit and find another job some where else, but that’s always easier said then done and the grass isn’t always greener.  You can make an anonymous call to the OSHA Hotline, 1-800-321-6742 and report it however it may close the plant for awhile during the investigation.  Or you can stay, take your chances, and possibly die on the job.  In that case, also make sure your life insurance is paid up.  I would usually say, go to your union representative but the union at the US Postal Service has become deaf, dumb and blind and have continued to allow their rank and file to be exposed to hazards on a daily bases while they try and do their jobs.

If you do stay and try to become part of the solution even though there is no union to go to, I wish you all the best.  It’ll be tough, long road especially if no one in management cares and Human Resources gives only lip service.  Expect to be harassed, threatened and abused verbally.  Document everything, dates, times, situations, safety issues, results, complaints, anything pertinent.  Try to get as many other workers involved as possible so you can also watch each others back. Stay strong.  You’ll know when the time is right to go to the local newspaper, local radio and lawyers to help you obtain that safe workplace you deserve.  Never keep quiet about safety.

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When I read that a US Postal facility didn’t have working fire extinguishers, Investigating grease fire at maintenance facility, OSHA finds US Postal facility failed to maintain working fire extinguisher I wondered is this management neglect or stupidity?  No one in management there had the brains to check that in a maintenance area, if the fire extinguishers worked?  Sounds to me, the individual responsible for the facility is not capable of doing their job and has no problem putting employees in danger.  So you know, you should have your fire extinguishers checked annually and there are plenty of reliable companies out there that can do this and recharge them as needed.  At home you should check your fire extinguishers along with changing your smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries with the time change on November 6th.  Don’t think for one minute that the USPS doesn’t have the money to take care of their extinguishers as they have become a cash cow for many companies feeding off their carcass.  Last year the USPS paid Federal Express over a billion dollars to fly their mail as well as giving lucrative contracts of hundreds of thousands of dollars to consultants and advisors which doesn’t appear to be working at all as poor service and incompetence continues to rule not to mention the poor safety conditions like un-usable fire extinguishers, forklifts being used that are in need of repair and unsafe, blocking emergency exits and evacuation routes.  Someone is being taken for a ride and it’s USPS.

Another corporation that has repeatedly demonstrated its lack of concern for it’s employees is Dollar General stores, Dollar General in trouble with OSHA, faces $156,772 for safety issues at Ohio store.  All most monthly, another Dollar store is found to be full of hazards like blocked exits, blocked electrical panels, improper storage of chemicals and little if any training.  The brain trust at Dollar could have easily ended this problem by communicating to store managers the importance of safety policies and procedures and then follow up with a surprise inspections and terminate a few managers but an executive at Dollar must have figured out that it is cheaper to just pay the fines, if and when found, then to spend the money to train and inform all the store managers on proper safety procedures.  This is not a company to begin your career as working here may soon end your life.  It’ll be interesting to see all the finger pointing that’ll occur if an employee or customer is killed due to the companies neglect.

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Then there are the few construction companies that believe men can fly.  You know the repeat offenders who keep putting workers at risk, working at great heights without any fall protection and the industry wonders why they can’t find workers.  Roofer’s first-day injury costs FL contractor $152K OSHA fine.  This contractor tried to kill someone on their first day on the job!!  Without any training or fall protection gear, a worker was carrying a sheet of plywood that became a sail when it caught a gust of wind and sent him over the edge, falling 14 feet only to be broken by a fence that he became partially impaled on.  What a nice first day.  Falls continues to be the number ONE problem in the industry and folks, I’m here to tell you it’s also the easiest problem to fix.  As a worker, just say NO if you are not given proper fall protection gear when working on a roof or over 6 feet off the ground.  If enough say no, the practice of putting people in danger will end.

Then there are the politicians.  Senate delayed train safety rule days before Hoboken accident.  The people we vote for and put into office hoping they have our best interest at heart and not their own and yet delay safety features that could save lives.  There is no excuse for not having the latest in technology available in use.  However, we have allowed our infrastructure to deteriorate to the point where on the road, on a bridge or on a train you can actually be taking your life in your hands.  It’s time someone stands up and says, we need to fix it now, because there may be no more tomorrows.

Workplace safety is a team effort that begins at the top and works all the way down to the shop floor.  Even if your company doesn’t take safety seriously, you can always control what happens in your little part of the world.  Google workplace safety and read as much as you can on your industry.  Read blogs like this on safety and learn all you can.  Go to the OSHA.gov website.  Talk to your fellow workers and begin a safety committee and make all the noise about it you can.  Never keep quiet about safety, since the life you save may be your own.

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