What Not To Do Wednesday – 5/24/17

Some days, what not to do is right in front of you.  When I was walking from the parking lot into the building, I noticed the ladder leaning against the building to access the roof.  The first thing that jumped out at me was the fact that the top of the ladder was extended just barely beyond the top edge of the wall.  It was not anywhere close to the minimum 3 feet that it should have extended past the access point between the ladder and the roof.

I went inside and grabbed my business partner to point out the ladder, but also to show him the new NIOSH Ladder Safety App.  It’s a simple but useful app that I’ve used out in the field on a couple of previous occasions to document fixed ladders on a worksite.  The nice thing about it is that it has a measuring tool that can tell you whether a ladder is placed at too shallow an angle, the appropriate angle, or too steep an angle.  When I placed my phone on the ladder, the ladder was at too shallow an angle – 72 degrees.  The shallow angle placement of the ladder is compounded by the fact that the feet of the ladder are placed on a downward sloping section of pavement.  Between the shallow angle, sloped pavement, and lack of ladder extension beyond the access point, this is a catastrophe waiting to happen.

Correcting these mistakes is a simple fix:

  • Extend the ladder further – there is still plenty of extension left in this ladder.
  • Check the angle of the ladder to make sure that it isn’t too shallow or too steep.  The NIOSH Ladder Safety App is free and easy to use.  Almost everyone has a smart phone so there is no excuse not to use the app.

What Not To Do Wednesday – 5/10/17

This is a special WNTDW Worker’s Compensation Fraud edition.  A woman in Fort Lauderdale took advantage of a fallen piece of sprinkler in an attempt to create a work related injury.  While words are good and a picture tells a 1,000 words – nothing does justice to a story like this as much as video.

As was mentioned during a “30 Tips in 30 Minutes” session at the New Jersey Self-Insured Association convention last week, one of the most important things that can be done after an incident is not only to secure witness statements but secure any video that may be available of the incident in question.  This video was worth 18 months of probation.

What Not To Do Wednesday – 3/22/17

Two recent stories have popped up in the last week that have to do with the wording of job descriptions and the impact of choice of words as well as the choice to use/not use the Oxford Comma.

In Maine, three truck drivers for Oakhurst Dairy sued their employer over the non-payment of overtime hours.  The case went to the 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals and hinged on a small detail – the Oxford Comma.  Maine law specifies specific tasks that are exempt from overtime pay:

The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:

(1) Agricultural produce;

(2) Meat and fish products; and

(3) Perishable foods.

The legal question hinges on whether “packing for shipment or distribution of” means “packing for shipment or distribution of” or “packing for shipment” and “distribution of” are two separate tasks.  The drivers were not a part of the packing for shipment (or packing for shipment and distribution) but were part of the distribution of the product.

Currently, the Court of Appeals has sided with the drivers that the statement means packing for “shipment and distribution” and not inclusive of the distribution of the packed product.  This missing comma has a potential value in the millions of dollars.

In a separate case, noted on John Geaney’s Workcomp Blog, he details the case of a pharmaceutical sales representative who developed vision problems that prevented her from being able to drive.  When the sales representative lost her ability to drive due to vision issues, she requested that Pfizer, her employer, provide her with a driver to drive her to sales appointments.  Pfizer declined this option and offered her a change in position to one which did not require driving to sales appointments.  The sales representative turned down that offer and filed an ADA case.  The case revolves around whether driving is an essential demand of the position.  Pfizer contends that driving to and from sales appointments is an essential demand while the sales representative contends that the ability to travel to and from sales appointments is the essential demand.  Unfortunately, the employer never listed the ability to drive or the requirement of a driver’s license as essential demands of the position. The appeals court has remanded the trial so that it can be determined whether driving is an essential demand for the position.

While this What To Do Wednesday post isn’t the typical, don’t be like the guy in this picture or story, it still presents important information of What Not To Do.  It can no longer be assumed that because a task is an essential demand due to longstanding tradition or an assumption of common sense dictates it to be.  Also, employers need to be aware of the potential grammar issues in job descriptions that may pose a problem when it comes to either payment for work performed or whether assigned tasks are included in the tasks covered by a specific law.

 

What Not To Do Wednesday – 3/15/17

A recent article in The Daily Meal focused on bad kitchen hygiene habits that can be observed by watching most of the television shows featuring celebrity chefs.  These habits include unsafe handling of meats and vegetables, lack of personal protective equipment (gloves), and unsafe techniques for tasting food while cooking.  The article points out that a reminder during the show about safe techniques could go along way to prevent unsafe and unhealthy techniques being used for cooks at home.  A “Don’t Do What I Do” reminder, if you will.

The celebrity food shows are not the only media in which poor or unsafe techniques are shown.

chip on top step of ladder

I hate to pick on Fixer Upper (it’s a favorite show in our home) as Chip’s goofiness is always the source of a few laughs.  But, this morning as my kids were watching a rerun, I heard him discuss some issues with the roof of a house that they were renovating.  When the word “ladder” came across the speaker of the television, I knew that I needed to take a quick peak.  I grabbed a quick picture with my cell phone as I saw them pull out the sketchy wooden A-frame ladder which was well below the roof line of the house.  Not only did Chip stand on the top step of the ladder with not great holding by his wife, he used this top step as a launching point to climb on to the roof.

In defense of Fixer Upper, almost every home improvement/home repair show on HGTV and DIY features moments just like this one – whether it is with ladders, saws, hammers, etc.  As Joanna Fantozzi of The Daily Meal pointed out in her article, a quick reminder of safety principles could go along way towards better safety practices of homeowners as they are attempting to do home renovations and repairs.

While This Old House may not be as fun and glitzy as its HGTV relatives, they include a lot of safety information as they take on different tasks on the show.

Ladder accidents cause nearly 500,000 injuries per year and the rate of ladder injuries has been increasing every year.  A significant portion of these injuries are not work related and occur at home.

There are several simple solutions to reducing the number of ladder related injuries:

  • Use the right type of ladder.
    • Use wood or fiberglass ladders when dealing with electricity.
    • Make sure that the ladder is of sufficient height for the task being performed.
    • Make sure that the ladder has a sufficient strength rating for the weight of the user and and tools/materials that are being carried or used.
  • Make sure that the ladder is in good shape.
    • If the ladder is worn or damaged, make sure that the ladder is repaired to manufacturer standards or replaced.
  • Make sure that you are using the ladder properly.
    • Maintain 3 points of contact when climbing.
    • Don’t reach out of your base of support.
    • When necessary, climb down, move the ladder, and climb again.
  • Make sure that you use proper ladder placement.
    • Place ladder on firm, even ground.
    • Use an assistant/helper to support the base of the ladder to prevent slipping.
    • Don’t place the ladder in front of doors that have not been secured.

One last suggestion comes from a recent paper in Injury by Ackland et al.  In their review of admissions to intensive care units due to ladder related injuries, they recommend that ladder users wear helmets to reduce the risk of traumatic brain injuries in the event of a fall from a ladder.  They note that this is especially important in home based environments as typical worksite occupational health and safety regulations are not in effect.

 

 

What Not To Do Wednesday – 2/22/17

This What Not To Do Wednesday is a little bit different.  I recently came across an article about an OSHA investigation into the death of a mountain climbing guide in Wyoming.

Typically, people think of OSHA and workplace safety as a construction or manufacturing issue and don’t realize that the involvement of OSHA is much further reaching.  In the past, OSHA has looked into the death of a marine mammal trainer at Sea World after an orca attacked a trainer as well as ski resorts after a ski director was killed in an avalanche.  OSHA also became involved in a recent case of a researcher in Montana who was killed by a grizzly bear.  OSHA noted that the researcher did not have anti-bear devices when he left to go into the field and that his employer did not have a check-in/check-out procedure to make sure that employees were properly equipped.

In the case of the climbing guide, OSHA looked into details surrounding a failure of a specific piece of safety equipment that failed as the climbing guide was attempting to retrieve a descending device.  OSHA acknowledged that the item was a piece of personally owned gear and that the actual failure was a knot tied by the guide.  Exum Mountain Guides agreed to perform formal annual inspections of both company and personal gear as part of their safety changes due to this case.  It was acknowledged that the failure of the knot was not Exum’s responsibility and that it isn’t practical for Exum to double check every knot tied by its employees.  OSHA also acknowledged that the guide was highly experienced.

The important thing to remember is that if there is a risk of injury to your employees, you need to have a safety plan to minimize or mitigate those risks – even if it is the potential of attacks by bears, whales, avalanches, or personal equipment failure.

 

What Not To Do Wednesday – 2/15/17

Admit it, at least once while driving you’ve had your cell phone or water bottle fall into the driver’s side foot well.  In fact, often the footwear we choose can come loose and get caught in the pedals.  With luck, we are able to clear the obstruction quickly and safely and avoid accidents.

This issue is not limited to automobiles.  Currently, a court martial proceeding in England is looking at a near crash of a Royal Air Force transport plane in 2014 while flying to Afghanistan.

The pilot had allegedly been taking photographs from the flight deck while the co-pilot was getting a cup of tea.  Allegedly, the pilot placed the camera to the left of his seat when he was finished taking pictures.  Prosecutors state that when the pilot moved his seat forward, the seat caught the camera and pushed it into the flight controls and placing the aircraft in an uncontrolled descent that was arrested after the plane had rapidly descended several thousand feet.  Many of the passengers, as well as the co-pilot, were injured when the became pressed against the ceiling due to the rapid descent.

In this particular type of aircraft, the flight controls are placed to the side of the pilot rather than in front of the pilot which sets a potential deadly situation such as what happened.   These types of accidents can occur in both aircraft and other types of vehicles when loose objects get wedged into control surfaces, whether it is a steering control or pedals.

Sometimes it is loose objects that we didn’t secure, but sometimes controls can be inhibited by things that we’ve placed and forgotten to remove.  A USAF C-130 crashed in Jalalabad, Afghanistan in October 2015 due to the case from a pair of night vision goggles being used to hold a control yoke in place.  The case had been set to hold the control yoke in a position that moved rear control surfaces out of the way of crew that had been unloading the plane while the plane was still running.  This particular hack was not a sanctioned method, but one that was used because the task was physically tiresome.  With the fact that the plane was still “hot”, it is possible that the flight crew missed a standard control surface check that would have found the case from the goggles before the plane took off.

The lessons from these two incidents is to make sure that there are not loose items that can move in a way that blocks control surfaces or if an object is placed in a position to hold a control surface for a task, it is removed before further usage.  In this second scenario, full use of check lists can help prevent problems.  Appropriate usage of checklists is a topic that we will be coming back to in the near future.

These lessons are not taken from military accidents to slight the military in any way.  In fact, more lessons from the military will pop in the future in this column for one specific reason.  Among the many things that the military does well, accident review is an area in which it excels.  The main reason for this is so that lessons that have been learned at the costs of lives and equipment need to be taught so that the same accident does not occur a second time.  The fact that they publicly report this information allows all of us to learn the lessons of these accidents.

What Not To Do Wednesday – 2/10/17

I’m posting on Friday because Wednesday was a little busy with weather preparations for Winter Storm Niko.  But, the delay dropped us a great WNTDW topic.

Fortunately, all reports indicate that this cheerleader is ok and does not have significant injuries.

Cheerleading is a demanding and occasionally dangerous activity with a lot of falls.  The what not to do portion hits three times within this video.

Admittedly, all videos of this event have a small break in the video between the fall and the cheerleader being carried out.  However, the first WNTD occurs when a member of the coaching staff chooses to carry the injured cheerleader from the court.  This cheerleader fell on her back and struck her head against the floor.  She should have been checked by the medical staff.

The coaching staff member then chose to run/walk at a very fast pace while carrying someone who has been injured.  Again, with a potential head and back injury, this is a definite WNTD.

Finally, because the person was moving fast while carrying the cheerleader, he was unable to see that his path was not clear which caused him to trip, fall, and drop the injured cheerleader.

Each of these WNTD’s could have been prevented by making sure that all staff members were instructed and trained on emergency procedures in the event of an injury.  With the potential head, neck, and back injuries, this cheerleader should have left the court on a stretcher/backboard – not carried by hand.

What Not To Do Wednesday – 2/1/17

worker trying to kick wood into a chipper in an unsafe and unprotected way (how not to use a wood chipper)
BBW345 worker trying to kick wood into a chipper in an unsafe and unprotected way (how not to use a wood chipper)

It seems like it should be a “no brainer” to not use your feet to help push things into machines that shred materials, but it happens.  Approximately 50% of those injured when using a wood chipper are sucked feet first into the machine.  The Bureau of Labor and Statistics tracks injuries and fatalities for many occupations.  Statistics for the last several years indicate about 100-130 non-fatal injuries occur while operating wood chippers with fatalities typically in the 5 to 10 per year range.

Wood chipper injuries can be reduced with some simple rules:

  • When you are working to clear a clogged chute, make sure that the machine if fully shutdown before opening the machine up.  A worker in Maine was fatally injured when he attempted to open a chipper before it was fully shut down.
  • Make sure to operate chippers in teams of at least two individuals.  These team members should be close enough to monitor each other, in the event that the machine needs to be shutdown.
  • Load smaller pieces on top of larger pieces – or use larger branches to push the shorter branches through the hopper.
  • Put twigs and other small branches directly into the truck instead of running them through the chipper.
  • Stand to the sides (specifically the side with the shutoff controls) of the hopper when feeding materials rather than in front of the hopper.

 

What Not To Do Wednesday

The internet is full of lots of information.  Some helpful, some esoteric, some entertaining…but, in that portion that is questionably entertaining, there is still some useful information.

What Not To Do Wednesday’s are going to be an opportunity to share some of those viral videos, images, and stories that despite the craziness still have some lessons to be learned.

This week’s video has gone viral since it hit the webs at the beginning of the week.  Nobody wants a nest of stinging insects near their garage.  There are many different options available at your local hardware store to get rid of these annoying houses for the scary, stinging insects.  There are even professional exterminators who excel at doing this safely.

We do not recommend using the solution seen in this video.

There’s many reasons that this is a bad idea:

  • While this gentleman is taking his own well-being in his own hands, he is putting the person who filmed him at risk for aggressive yellow jackets that may escape his grip.
  • This is a prime example of less than best practices when using a ladder.  In both reaching for the nest as well as when he shows the crushed nest, he leans well outside of his base of support – in fact, you can see the ladder shaking multiple times during this video.
  • He makes an aggressive movement in reaching for the nest which could have resulted in a fall.
  • His barehands put his hands at risk for stinging injuries.

It shouldn’t have to be said, but don’t try this at home or work.

The Entymology Department at the University of Kentucky provides a comprehensive list of strategies for dealing with different types of stinging insects and their hives.  Interestingly, they mention that yellow jackets can become very aggressive when disturbed and that sometimes a professional is the best person to handle this situation.

What Not To Do Wednesday will be a regular feature on this blog going forward.  I hope that it will become both an educational tool for those that read the blog as well as a resource for those of you who provide safety lectures when you need to illustrate a point.