Companies Behaving Badly-October

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October is such a great month.  The air has a nice crisp snap to it and the month is spread full with many fun events preparing us while also helping build the anticipation as October leads right into November and Thanksgiving.  Octoberfest celebrates beer, there’s a parade honoring Columbus sailing the ocean blue and then Halloween full of tricks or treats and scary feats.  The month of October also honors fire pups, mad hatters, reptile awareness day, grouches day, bring your teddy bear to work and make a difference day.  However there are still companies that don’t even try to make a difference except putting people in danger.  So pour yourself a pumpkin latte, grab your pet Iguana and then strap in and hold tight, for this is another episode of Companies Behaving Badly.

OSHA cites Delaware plastics company – PREVENTABLE – Optimum Plastics showed the love to their workers by making NO effort at all to provide adequate machine guarding, even after several employees suffered injuries while operating the equipment.  Yes you heard correctly, even after three previous similar accidents occurred to employees within a year at Optimum, they still did nothing but put their heads in the sand hoping the problems would magically go away.  I guess ignorance is bliss.

Mamaroneck firm faces nearly $250G OSHA fine for NYC hotel work PREVENTABLEFlintlock Construction Services LLC, had no problem at all, exposing their employees to fall hazards by failing to provide guardrails or personal fall-arrest systems while they worked on insufficient scaffolding.  This total lack of concern towards their staff earned them a spot in the OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program which is something you don’t want and nothing to be proud about.

Relative: Worker who died in Chicago sewer had worried about hazards of job – PREVENTABLE – This is a very sad story but there are lessons to be learned from this tragedy.  First one is, If you feel very uncomfortable about how safety is handled in your workplace that it gives you sleepless nights or grave concern, DO something about it!  Don’t leave cryptic messages to loved ones but stand up for yourself and Say something.  The even more important lesson here, NEVER take off any safety equipment especially when in a confined work area until you are clear of the hazard(s).  Don’t go along with the crowd just to be one of the guys for a few days, it can kill you and that is forever.

Pasadena tank cleaner cited by OSHA for failing to protect workers – PREVENTABLEPPE?  We don’t need no stinkin PPE!  Amongst the list of the 21 serious violations cited at Rucker Environmental Services, LLC included but not limited to: failing to test confined spaces before entry and didn’t have a rescue plan in place or trained workers.  There were NO emergency eyewash and shower stations or personal protective equipment, such as respirators provided as well as failed to provide fall protection for workers performing cleaning tasks at elevations more than 4 feet above a lower level.  Carrying around a rabbit’s foot or horseshoe does NOT constitute a workplace safety plan.

Repeat offender fined $336K by OSHA for fall hazards – PREVENTABLE – Could Twin Pines Construction demonstrate any more contempt for it’s hard working employees?  Yes, by being a repeat offender on the same hazards in 2009 and 2011 and now!  Trying to shave a few dollars off a bid to get a contract doesn’t work well when you throw your employees safety out the window to save those few bucks.  How are you saving money when you have to pay fines, hospital bills or funeral bills?  You save nothing in the long run but does continually make lawyers richer!  Fines are not enough, these repeat offenders should be shut down or heavily taxed for their continued ignorance.

Widows Of Men Killed At Wynnewood Refinery File Suit – PREVENTABLE – The Wynnewood Refinery management team was probably more focused on making their bonuses than worrying when the 60 year old boiler would blow.  I’m sure they discussed in their production meetings how much more they could get out of the old boiler before someone was seriously injured and it really had to be replaced.  I know, I’ve been to those meetings where they set a price on a human life and how fast upper management will put an end to any discussions on safety when production and the $ is the focus no matter what.  My heart goes out to these widows, who have to deal with this and I do hope they take Wynnewood for every cent they can.

Man dies in industrial incident PREVENTABLE – Should always be aware of your surroundings and you should never go so fast that you ignore safety protocol.  Maintaining a safe operating distance between forklifts can prevent such tragedies.

Obama Executive Order Likely to Increase OSHA Scrutiny of Chemical Facilities – INFOOSHA will be giving Chemical Facilities a longer and deeper look in the near future.  If you want to blame anyone for this new governmental intrusion just have all the Chemical CEO’s and Board members look in the mirror.  If policies already on the books were followed and workers stopped dying from shear lack of concern and lack of a safety plan this wouldn’t be happening.  It’s going to take more than cute commercials explaining how you’ve learned from your mistakes and it’ll never happen again.  That’s just great comedy relief.

Safety campaign targets fire – INFO – Your home can be just as dangerous as the workplace if you don’t take the proper precautions.  The number one cause of fires in the household is cooking and not just forgetting you have something on the stove or in the oven.  Frying food is the number one cause of injuries from fire.  So before you tackle that deep fried turkey and become one yourself make sure you have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and use timers to remind you that something is cooking.

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Green Safety Pin

Safety is just as much your concern as it is the companies.  When a manager or supervisor tells you to do something you know is wrong, call them on it!  You can not be fired for refusing to do a unsafe act and you have every right to go home the same way as you had arrived at work, in one piece and a live. Become part of the process and join your companies safety committee and if there isn’t one START one.  Don’t stay quiet, be aware, the life you save may be your own.

A Complete Guide To Warehouse Safety-Volume II-Picking PPE

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In Volume I-Back To Basics, we began our trip down the Green Brick Road of Safety where we met job safety analysis, who showed us where our safety hazards can be located.  Now that we know that we can determine what kind of PPE is needed to give further protection to employees as they carry out their tasks.  PPE – Personal Protective Equipment, (Is designed to protect workers from serious workplace injuries or illnesses resulting from contact with chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical or other workplace hazards), is very similar to what our Knight above is wearing.  His job description includes protecting his King from enemies of the realm which probably usually meant battle.  So his PPE had to help protect him from swords, lances and arrows the best it could so he could continue doing his job and save the kingdom.

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The same would also apply to an athlete getting ready for either type of football game.  Shin guards, shoulder pads and helmets give protection needed to get through the game.

Apply this thinking as you look at where the hazards intersect with the employees and what added protection will keep them from injury or long term disability.  As a reminder, a safety professional should usually do this, however knowledge is a powerful thing and all employees, whether management or worker should be aware of what is available.

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HANDS/GLOVES – There are many types of gloves available for any job function.  For moving and handling cartons or stacking pallets the gloves will give you a very good grip as well as protect from splinters.  If your job includes using sharp blades or cutting instruments there are gloves made from kevlar that prevent lacerations.     There are gloves that protect you from acid & chemical burns and other corrosive materials as well as thermal gloves for extreme temperature use.  You have many to choose from to properly protect your workers.

HEAD/BUMP-CAP -Sometimes employees have to work in cramped spaces or areas with low hanging obstacles.   A bump cap can prevent head impact and penetration injuries in those situations.  It is also highly recommended that staff cover and protect long hair that can get caught in machinery parts or belts.

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EYES/SAFETY GLASSES – Sight is one of your critical five senses that needs to be protected at all times.  Employees that work in areas where they are flying fragments, large chips, sparks and splashes  should be fitted for face shields.  Goggles, safety glasses and prescription glasses with side shields may be effective enough for areas with particles, sand, dirt, dusts and glare.

EARS/HEARING PROTECTION – Hearing is another crucial sense to protect, since damage can be  gradual over time and not as immediately noticeable like loss of sight.  Working an 8 hour shift in an environment where the noise level is 90dB or higher will cause irreversible damage your hearing.  Consistently wearing ear plugs or ear muffs will protect your hearing.  Ear plugs come as daily disposable types that conform to the shape of your ear canal or permanent egg plugs specifically molded for your ears by a professional.  Some high noise areas may require a combination of ear plugs and muffs.

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FEET/LEG PROTECTION – Just as important as the eyes and ears are your limbs.  Having the dock workers wear steel tipped shoes will help prevent crushed toes and broken bones in the foot.  They protect not only from a run-over hazard but dropping heavy items as well.  If you work in a cold warehouse the proper shoes will also prevent slips and falls.

LUNGS/DUST MASKS & RESPIRATORS – Are there areas of the facility where heavy dust is an issue or smoke, gas vapors, paints and sprays are completed.  Depending on the amount of contaminant particles in the air and toxicity of the vapors there are many items available.  From simple dust masks  to respirators and other breathing apparatus for use in confined spaces where toxic fumes collect.

ADVERSE CONDITIONS & OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS – Imagine putting yourself inside a washer machine that’s inside a hot warehouse and then having to make repairs to the washer from within inside.  That’s what working inside a confined space can feel like.  You’re totally enclosed except for a tiny portal.  There is not air movement, it’s hot and dark and there may be toxic gases still trapped inside.  Think about having to stand near by as molten metals are poured into molds and you get a blast of the fumes and heat as it’s poured or imagine picking customer orders for hours in sub zero temperatures inside a giant freezer.  In every case, make sure you do the job using only the proper PPE.  It can be a matter of life or death.

Remember, none of these suggestions will work if proper training is not given as an accompaniment.   Employees must be educated  on how to properly use the PPE, understand the limitations of the PPE and how to adjust and wear the PPE including how to maintain it.  Training is the key for any successful safe workplace and there is never an excuse for not holding at least a monthly safety meeting as well as encourage the participation of staff on safety committees.  Thank you for joining this journey down the Green Brick Road of Safety.  We still have some distance to go.  Volume III will be here before you know it.

Now Hear This!

While I’m waiting for the light to change and listening to the very loud bass vibrating my car from the next vehicle, I chuckle as I think, wow in 20 years we’re going to have a massive hearing loss epidemic among males and headlines asking why the government didn’t do anything to stop it.  You laugh as I but hearing loss is a bigger problem in the work place than you may think.  Sounds over 90 decibels can cause damage to the inner ear when encountered over a long period of time and to compare, a normal conversation at 3 feet apart from one another is 60-65 decibels.  So if your working 8 hours in an environment where the noise level is 90dB and over, (some experts say 80dB and over) you NEED to wear some level of hearing protection PPE, (Personal Protective Equipment).

For those of you already working in noisy environments this is nothing new and your company should be issuing hearing protection and you MUST be USING them diligently.  You also upon your hire should have had a baseline test completed.  This helps monitor and determine if there is any drop in hearing over the years of employment.  Good companies follow up with a hearing test on your employment anniversary date to track if any issues.

Do you need hearing protection at your place of work?   A general rule of thumb is that if you need to shout to be heard, the sound is in the range that can damage hearing.  With forklifts generating 77-93dB and diesel trucks clocking 97-112dB a dock could get noisy.  Speak with your supervisor or manager and ask that a sound test be completed. Then depending on the decibel levels measured you can work with HR on selection of the proper ear protection.

                   Ear Plugs                                                                                  Ear Muffs

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OSHA also has posted, limits of exposure time for noise. For 90dB it’s 8 hours a day down to 15 minutes a day at 115 dB.  It’s interesting to note that OSHA limits exposure of 100 decibels to 2 hours.  100 dB is generated easily at some rock concerts, so a 3-4 hour show can actually be damaging to your hearing.

Take safety seriously, protect your hearing, it’s something that happens gradually over the years and will not return after you’ve lost.   Open up those lines of communication with your company and make safety everybody’s problem.