Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Your Safety Culture

By Carmine Castorina. Senior Instructor and Consultant
During my many years as a safety administrator, I've seen and heard things that made me wonder why people take short cuts when it comes to their safety. I used to hear supervisors tell their employees, "We want you to go home in the same shape you came to work". Then I heard employees answer, "If that's the truth why isn't our safety your priority". Sometimes our words have no meaning especially when we don't back them up with action.
Let me ask the hard questions. How is your company's safety record? Do your employees trust your commitment to their safety? Are you using empty words and phrases just so you can hear yourself say them? Have you taken a good look at the condition of your company's safety culture? Do you have one?
Today's economy demands that you make every dollar count. Your company can't afford accidents.
Improving the safety culture of your organization can be accomplished by following a few basic steps.
  1. Evaluate job hazards. You may call this a Job Safety Analysis (JSA) or Job Hazard Analysis (JHA). Determine the hazards your employees could encounter and provide them with engineering controls, administrative controls, and as a last resort personal protective equipment to keep them safe.
  2. Establish written environmental, health, and safety plans. Identify federal, state, and local regulations that apply to your business. For example, Confined Space, Lockout/Tagout, Respiratory Protection.
  3. Plan the work and follow the plan. Make sure everyone understands what they need to do.
  4. Safety talks. Conduct relevant safety talks often and allow employees to ask questions.
  5. Train your employees. They must understand the regulations and how your plan will protect them. Don't forget to document all training.
  6. Create a safety committee. Employees will take ownership of a program if they are invited to contribute.
  7. Investigate accidents and also your close calls or near misses.
  8. Reward safe performance. Keep the rewards simple. A few good examples would be some type of recognition, a breakfast or small gift certificate, something that shows your appreciation for their practicing safety. Unfortunately, we must also recognize unsafe acts. Before you exercise sever disciplinary action try to find the reason for the action. If necessary, remember the unpleasant part of your job is to enforce the rules.

  9. Lead by example. Probably the most effective step is to lead by example. Management must comply with the rules. No exceptions. Wear hard hats (properly), eye protection, and hearing protection in designated areas.

    Improving your company's safety culture is a slow process but worth your time and effort.

Friday, November 6, 2009


by Mark Hart, Senior Instructor and Consultant
I try to talk about my friend Wiley whenever I train equipment operators who work at solid waste facilities. It's not easy, because I feel tremendous guilt about his tragic death. But I don't want anyone to make the same mistake I made so I put it out there as often as I can. Years after I left the company, he slipped and fell one day getting out of a tractor while working at a landfill in California. He was horribly killed. Skip watched it happen. I remember the first time I talked to Skip after it happened. Shook up doesn't even begin to describe it. I respected his privacy too much to have asked him for details. To the best of my knowledge, Wiley was exiting the dozer, and it went into reverse, and he slipped on the tracks, and got carried underneath. How many times had I seen him jump down off of the tracks of a dozer? I spoke to him about it, sure, but he didn't work for me. He worked for one of the corporate big-shots, and never hesitated to bring it up. Nevertheless, even though whenever he was working on my site it was on a temporary project, he was on my site, and safety was my responsibility on my site.
He was an incredible operator. He would build roads, cut ditches, cover slopes, and excavate ponds with Skip, and together they would do the work of four skilled operators. And he would take chances. I saw him fail to use three point contact, leave equipment running after exiting, exit machinery without engaging the parking brake or lowering the bucket or blade, and generally beat the hell out of the heavy equipment he operated. I spoke to him about it, sure, but he laughed it off. Had any of my operators operated in that fashion, it would have been one, two, three strikes and you're out. But not so with Wiley. I shared my guilty feelings with Skip, and he told me to forget it. He had been operating for 40 years before he ever met you, he told me. Nothing you could have done would have changed what happened that day. I will never know.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I know it’s not safe, but I’ll just be careful

By Don DeCaro, Senior Instructor and Consultant

Yes, that is the title of this article and the start of a most “un-excellent” adventure of mine that occurred many years ago. It started with my wanting to finish up some simple water-testing: pH, hardness, salt, TDS, and finally an ammonia determination. The test for ammonia uses Nessler’s reagent (an aqueous solution of potassium iodide, mercuric chloride, and potassium hydroxide, used as a test for the presence of ammonia).

10:40 AM - I want to finish this testing so I can go out to lunch with the crew at 11:00 AM. It is a half-hour lunch that usually goes from 11 – 12:30 PM. Once back from lunch, all I need to do is clean up the glassware, write up the report and day is done.

Hey, all I need to do is pipette one ml of Nessler’s solution to 50 ml of test solution, mix well, wait the prescribed amount of time and take a colormetric reading to get the ammonia value – easy.

10:42 AM - I can’t find my squeeze bulb to pipette the Nessler’s solution – drat! Watching the clock ticking furiously, I search around, but I can not find any bulb nearby.

10:44 AM - Knowing that the storeroom is closed for lunch at this time, I made a fateful decision; I would pipette the Nessler’s reagent by mouth. In the past I have pipetted water by mouth with no problem. The only difference is that this would be a hazardous solution. So I said to myself: “I know it’s not safe, but I’ll just be careful.”

10:50 AM - I held the bottle of reagent and noticed that the bottle was only 1/5 full. I muttered to myself that I should be real careful not to lift the tip out of solution while siphoning the solution; it could bubble up and “hit” my mouth.

10:55 AM – Here I go; I start to siphon up the nasty solution by mouth just as the “boys” come by the doorway to my room. “Hey!” they yell, “let’s go already.” As they yell, my head tilts upward, lifting the pipette out of the solution.

10:55 & ½ AM - Several drops splay upwards and enters my mouth. I could feel the enamel of my teeth dissolving.
My throat muscles constrict as if King Kong was squeezing my throat. In the pain, I barely manage to lower the bottle of Nessler’s reagent to the bench, gagging along the way.

10:56 AM – “C’mon,” they yell in unison, “stop fooling around and let’s go.” They proceed to exit the lab and enjoy lunchtime.

10:59 AM – I recover somewhat from my incident, rinse out my mouth and sit quietly in a corner of the room. I actually reflected on what had happened and why I took such a chance. I really balanced the benefit of not following a prudent practice vs the risk taken.

11:00 AM – A Safety person was born at that moment.

Hazards don’t take a lunch break

By Don DeCaro, Senior Instructor and Consultant.
At a fossil power generating station, it was now lunchtime and all was well. The electrical crew, those who run electrical conduit throughout “gen stations,” were having a well-deserved lunch break. The supervisor was with them and all were relaxed and chatting about whatever gets discussed at lunchtime.

At about this time, I was in the Maintenance Manager’s office discussing either up-coming safety training or the results of air-borne monitoring that was just recently completed. On the Manager’s desk was a radio turned of to keep abreast of what was happening in the “field.”

“We’re coming in, we’re coming in!” was heard, very loud and clear. The excited voice from the General Watch Supervisor (GWS) was now stating that they were coming to a site near us. Other words were now heard sporadically: burn, bad, electrical burn, etc. We both left the office and headed to the expected arrival site. I ended up having a container of “Water Jel” with me; to this day I do not clearly remember how I got it.

We arrived just as these two employees did; they both looked like they had a bad sunburn around their faces. The GWS held up the Electrical Supervisor’s arm. The forearm was split wide open, looking like a hotdog on a grill that had been on a bit too long. His bone and tendons were clearing showing, and that was because there was no blood evident. The electrical arc apparently cauterized the site perfectly.

The Electrical Supervisor was in shock and showed no evidence of pain. As he held his arm up, I opened up the container of Water Jel and took out the small towel-like fabric that was completely covered in gel. I completely covered the hand and arm with this. Just at this time the EMTs arrived and took over.

Later that day did we understand what had happened. The GWS wanted some technical advice from the Electrical Foreman about some electrical equipment (440 amps). The Forman pointed in and got too close. An arc went into his wrist and exited at the elbow.

The injured person eventually recovered with minimal damage. The arm healed with only some scar tissue showing and with some minor damage to the tendons.

A detailed review of the incident revealed deficiencies of their actions/procedures not followed, were corrected and communicated to all relevant personnel.

Yes, he was having lunch and figured it would only take a moment to help this person out and then get back to his lunch. The arc took less then that moment.

Electrical Burns Entrance Wound: High resistance of skin transforms electrical energy into heat, which produces burns around the entrance point (dark spot in center of wound). This man was lucky, the current narrowly missed his spinal cord.

Exit Wound: Current flows through the body from the entrance point, until finally exiting where the body is closest to the ground. This foot suffered massive internal injuries, which weren't readily visible, and had to be amputated a few days later.

Arc Burn: This man was near a power box when an electrical explosion occurred. Though he did not touch the box, electricity arced through the air and entered his body. The current was drawn to his armpits because perspiration is very conductive.