Free Webinar Tomorrow: Predicting and Preventing Workplace Injuries

Griffin Schultz, general manager of Predictive Solutions, will present a webinar on Wednesday, Jan. 29 at 1 p.m. (EST) titled “Predicting and Preventing Workplace Injuries—a How-To Guide.”

In this webinar, Schultz will describe how big data, analytics, and prediction relate to the world of safety. Following a review of the theory and methodology behind predicting workplace injuries, Schultz will provide examples of companies that are successfully employing prediction to keep their workers safer. These examples will serve as the basis for a “how-to” guide.

Schultz is responsible for all aspects of Predictive Solutions’ business—a fully owned subsidiary of Industrial Scientific Corp.

Access a registration link for this webinar.

How to Identify and Treat Hypothermia

Cold environments present a real hazard to workers. Just being in the cold can limit a person’s range of motion, creating a possible workplace hazard. Illnesses caused by the cold include trench foot, frostbite and hypothermia. The most serious of the cold stress illnesses is hypothermia, a condition in which core body temperature drops below the required temperature for normal metabolism and body functions. Symptoms of hypothermia vary depending on the level of hypothermia: mild, moderate, severe and critical. To ensure a safe winter workforce, you must be able to identify the symptoms of hypothermia and treat them.

Mild Hypothermia

When a person’s body begins to cool, the body’s natural reaction is to shiver to create internal heat. As the body cools, surface blood vessels begin to shut down to prevent the further loss of heat through the skin. Numbness to the extremities occurs, resulting in a loss of dexterity. Although the victim will be alert, other symptoms of mild hypothermia include a body temperature of 97 to 93 F and pain from the cold.

Moderate Hypothermia

As the victim’s body temperature decreases, shivering will become more violent. Movements are slow and labored, accompanied by a stumbling pace and mild confusion, although the victim still may appear alert. Surface blood vessels contract further as the body focuses on keeping the vital organs warm. The victim becomes pale. Lips, ears, fingers and toes may be blue. His or her body temperature now is around 93 to 90 F.

Severe Hypothermia

The victim now is showing obvious signs of the cold. Less blood flow causes confusion. Other symptoms include:

  • A body temperature of 90 to 82 F.
  • Shivering has decreased or stopped.
  • Confusion and loss of reasoning.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Semi-conscious to unconscious.
  • Muscular rigidity.

Critical Hypothermia

This is a life-threatening condition. The victim will die if not treated. Symptoms include:

  • A body temperature of less than 82 F.
  • Unconscious and may appear dead.
  • Little breathing.
  • Slow pulse.
  • Dilated eyes.
  • Rigid body.

Treating Hypothermia

The basic principles of rewarming a hypothermic victim are to conserve the heat he or she has and replace the body fuel he or she is burning to generate heat.

Victims of mild to moderate hypothermia are still conscious and can be treated without medical attention. Follow these guidelines:

  • Handle the victim gently and minimize his or her exertion.
  • Remove wet clothing and get the victim into warm, dry clothes. Wrap the victim in warm blankets, ensuring his or her head is covered. Place something warm and dry under the victim. Move him or her to a warm environment. Do not make the victim exercise to warm up.
  • Do not suppress shivering, even if violent. Shivering is the most effective way to generate body heat.
  • Do not massage the extremities (hands, arms, legs, feet, etc.) or the trunk.
  • Do not place the victim in a warm bath or shower.

Victims of moderate to severe hypothermia have an altered level of consciousness and fluctuating changes to their heart and respiratory rate. They may be shivering and their core body temperature is usually below 91.4 F. If someone is suffering from critical hypothermia, dial 911 immediately. Then follow these steps:

  • Handle the victim gently. Rough handling can cause heartbeat irregularities and death.
  • Check for airway obstructions and breathing or circulation problems and take appropriate action if there are any abnormalities. Initiate CPR only if no pulse is present after a one-minute assessment.
  • If CPR is necessary, assist breathing at 10 to 12 breaths per minute. Do not start cardiac massage unless it can be continued effectively without a break. It is more dangerous to start, stop and restart CPR rather than to wait until proper care is available.
  • Remove all wet clothing and replace with dry, warm blankets or a sleeping bag. If this is not possible, cover the victim with warm dry clothing, ensuring his or her head is covered. Place something warm and dry under the victim.
  • Move the victim to a warm, dry environment.
  • Do not suppress shivering, even if it is violent. Shivering generates body heat.
  • Do not give anything by mouth because of the high risk of vomiting.
  • Do not massage the trunk or extremities of the victim.
  • Do not place the victim in a hot bath or shower.
  • If available, heated, humidified air or oxygen should be administered.
  • Continue first-aid treatment even if the victim appears lifeless. The body can sometimes survive for hours at very low body temperatures without signs of life.
  • Arrange rapid transport to the nearest medical facility.

Hypothermia Prevention

Hypothermia can happen on a mild winter’s day or damp day in fall or spring. The basic principle for preventing hypothermia is to stay warm and dry and be prepared for a sudden emergency. You must know how to assess hypothermia and give help when it is needed, even if the victim resists help. He or she may be confused and unaware of what is happening, so it is up to you to recognize the signs of hypothermia and administer treatment.

I Experienced a Fatality on a Job Site

A fatality on a job site is something I never thought I would experience. I’ve worked in architecture/construction/real-estate development for more than 12 years and a rusty nail through a work boot was one of the worst events I had encountered. I’ve been lucky. However, a roofing worker on a job site where my team recently was working lost his life and it was an incident that could have been prevented.

Our firm was hired by a client to act as an owner’s representative observer for a reroofing project. Thankfully (from a business owner’s standpoint), we were only hired to observe, photograph and document progress for the building owner. Our company was not the general contractor or the roofing contractor; therefore, we had no capacity to be in a supervisory role or have any say in means, methods or logistics of the roofing project.

The building was a high-bay industrial property that was due for a new roof membrane and insulation. Because the roof was fairly large in size and the weather was less than optimal, the roofing project was being completed in sections. Work progressed for several weeks in fits and starts and was generally behind schedule but was nearing completion.

One morning, in the process of what would seem to be catching up on the schedule, one worker became lax in using fall protection. Although the sections of the roof that were being stripped were cordoned off with flags, the worker was in an area that had a previous repair to the steel deck. A replacement section of steel deck had been used to cover up an old penetration or previous roof-deck repair. As the worker picked up a piece of underlayment, he stepped onto the replacement piece of steel deck, which had not been welded into place and did not overlap the hole any significant amount. As the worker stepped onto the replacement piece of steel deck, it slipped. Because there was little overlap, the piece of steel deck twisted as it slid and fell through the hole. The worker fell almost 30 feet to a concrete floor.

I’m not exactly sure what the survival statistic is for falling from that distance onto a hard concrete surface, but I can imagine that it struggles to reach double digits. Others on the site scrambled off the roof and performed CPR but, unfortunately, it was not enough to save the worker.

A recent study, “Fatal Falls from Roofs among U.S. Construction Workers”, from the Center for Construction Research and Training offers some startling statistics about roofing falls. From 1992-2009 nearly one-third of all fatal construction accidents were falls from roofs. The study states 76 percent of all deaths in the roofing industry are fall-related, and there is a higher incident of falls among foreign-born workers. Language barriers may be an issue in some instances. The sad fact is a good number of these fatalities could have been prevented with appropriate safety gear, clear communication and by avoiding cutting corners.

The construction field is a dangerous area where the risks of serious injury and even death are prevalent on a daily basis. The problem becomes worse when workers become complacent in their jobs; they know the associated risks but still make decisions that put them in harm’s way. I’m pretty sure the worker on this particular job site didn’t wake up that morning thinking it may be his last day alive. It’s just not something you think will happen to you until it’s too late.

Safety on the worksite should be the No. 1 priority of any company. Supervisors who are lenient about safety rules need to be retrained and held accountable for their job-site safety record. Above all, if you see something, say something. If a member of my team noticed this worker was not wearing fall protection, I would like to think they would’ve said something. It’s easy to dismiss reporting a safety violation to those in charge. Too often we think, “It’s not my job site; it’s not my employee; it’s not my problem”. However, someone’s life is at stake, and that someone deserves to go home to his or her family just like we do.

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Cold-weather Considerations

During the next several months, it will not be unusual to see roofing crews working hard to complete projects or trying to get an early start on spring projects. Executing roofing projects during the cold months of winter creates a unique set of safety hazards and challenges for designers, contractors and building owners. Not understanding or failing to address cold-weather considerations will impact installation quality and long-term roof performance.

In many cases, designers don’t plan on specifying a roof system specifically for installation during the cold winter weather. However, anticipated funding approval and construction schedules can change, quite often forcing a designer to make changes to accommodate the cold weather. Designers should consider changes related to roof installation methods, as well as adhesive type, to ensure the roof can be installed as designed in colder, potentially snowy, wet weather.

Materials

This adhesive is not stored properly.

This bonding adhesive is not stored properly.

When choosing materials to install, it is important to remember most roofing materials are not designed to be installed in cold-weather situations, especially when ambient temperatures dip below 40 F. Membranes, adhesives, equipment and contractors will perform differently in colder temperatures, so planning ahead and considering how the cold weather will impact material selection, installation time and quality is critical.

Membrane: Storing roof membrane at the job site during warm months is straightforward: Keep the rolls off the ground and protect them from moisture using breathable tarpaulins. As the weather grows colder, the dew point and temperature typically come closer together, increasing the potential for condensation and frost forming on materials. Keep material goods warm and dry by storing them inside a conditioned space or in a heated job trailer. Keeping materials warm and dry will reduce the risk of moisture being introduced into the roof system during construction and minimize the possibility of blisters and other deficiencies in the completed roof system. In addition, material rolls will become more rigid as they get colder, requiring additional time to kick out and relax before installing.

Adhesives and asphalt: When dealing with membrane adhesives, there are generally two main categories to consider solvent-based and waterborne adhesives. Recently, the use of waterborne adhesives has been growing steadily as a result of low odor and VOC code requirements. Both types of adhesives have similar manufacturer recommendations for storage temperature, typically between 60 and 80 F.

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Fatal Work Injuries Decreased in 2012

Preliminary results from the Washington, D.C.-based Bureau of Labor Statistics‘ National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries show a reduction in the number of fatal work injuries in 2012 compared with 2011. Last year, 4,383 workers died from work-related injuries, down from a final count of 4,693 fatal work injuries in 2011. Based on preliminary counts, the rate of fatal workplace injuries in 2012 was 3.2 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, down from a rate of 3.5 per 100,000 in 2011.

In response, Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez states: “I am greatly encouraged by the reduction in workplace fatalities, even in a growing economy. It is a testament to the hard work of employers, unions, health and safety professionals, and the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Mine Safety and Health Administration. Through collaborative education and outreach efforts and effective law enforcement, these numbers indicate that we are absolutely moving in the right direction. But to me these aren’t just numbers and data; they are fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, who will never come home again.

“We can and must do better. Job gains in oil and gas and construction have come with more fatalities, and that is unacceptable. That’s why OSHA has undertaken a number of outreach and educational initiatives, including a campaign to prevent falls in construction … . Employers must take job hazards seriously and live up to their legal and moral obligation to send their workers home safe every single day. The Labor Department is committed to preventing these needless deaths, and we will continue to engage with employers to make sure that these fatality numbers go down further.”

OSHA’s Pending IIPP Standard

The Washington, D.C.-based Occupational Safety and Health Administration is directing its efforts toward enforcing a standard in which employers nationwide will be required to establish a thorough, written Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP).

OSHA’s Assistant Secretary of Labor David Michaels calls the IIPP the organization’s highest priority and said it could go into effect in the next one to two years. Its goal is to reduce injuries and the associated costs to business. In fact, California, which implemented the requirement in 1991, has experienced overwhelmingly positive results from it.

What’s Involved

IIPPs aren’t a new idea; most companies already have a program in place designed to reduce or eliminate worksite health and safety hazards. OSHA’s standard, however, will make it a requirement and will set guidelines for what must be included in the program. OSHA is accepting input during the drafting phase but has officially stated the following will be required IIPP inclusions:

Hazard Identification/Assessment: A written process by which hazards will be identified. This will include investigating incidents, inspecting the workplace for hazards, and identifying new hazards created by worksite changes or emergencies.

Hazard Prevention/Control: Control methods by which hazards will be isolated or eliminated. This portion of the IIPP also will require documentation of the control methods and their determined effectiveness.

Management: This will cover a company’s chain of command, including managerial duties, resource distribution and allocation, and the proper network for employee communication.

Education and Training: Training requirements, such as specific hazard training, control methods and timetables, will be required. In addition, incidents would dictate the need for residual or refresher training.

Employee Involvement: This will ensure employees participate in creating and maintaining the IIPP. It provides employees with access to important safety information and sets guidelines for employee involvement in risk assessments and incident investigations.

Program Evaluation and Improvement: Employer IIPPs will need to be considered a living document, constantly being evaluated and updated. These evaluations will include performance monitoring and using incident investigations to identify and correct program deficiencies.

Why?

OSHA’s goal in making its IIPP standard a federal requirement is to encourage employers to implement clear directives for reducing health and safety hazards in the workplace. By mitigating hazards and reducing safety incidents in this way, employers should expect to see an overall improvement in workplace health conditions.

The standard will also allow OSHA to look more deeply at an employer’s systems and efforts to reduce workplace hazards. By making safety at work more transparent, OSHA will be able to get more involved in evaluation and risk reduction.

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Whether Hands-free, Handheld, Texting or Talking, Distracted Driving Is Deadly

The Washington, D.C.-based National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), an independent safety agency, recently recommended a total ban of all mobile-device use while driving. According to Deborah Hersman, the chairman of the NTSB, distraction-related crashes killed 3,092 people in 2010, “the equivalent of a regional jet crash every week.”

Every year, drivers–distracted by the use of mobile devices–cause 636,000 crashes, 342,000 injuries and 2,600 deaths. The financial toll is staggering: $43 billion per annum. While some politicians argue about the science behind distracted driving, experts agree: mobile-device use impairs driving ability. According to a study at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, talking on a mobile device reduces the amount of brain activity related to driving by 37 percent. Further, recent studies show hands-free mobile devices are no safer to use while driving than handheld mobile devices. Distracted drivers have slower reaction times, and the odds of a crash are four times more likely when a driver uses a mobile device. Critically, many scientists believe these distractions make drivers as collision- prone as having a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent, the legal limit.

Legal Landscape

In the last 10 years, courts have seen an “explosion” of distracted-driving cases.

In the last 10 years, courts have seen an “explosion” of distracted-driving cases.

In the last 10 years, courts have seen an “explosion” of distracted-driving cases. In the last five years, juries–emboldened by a “profits over safety” trial theme–have rendered numerous multimillion dollar verdicts, as evidenced by the sample verdicts in Figure 1, left.

The claims in these cases are easy to allege but difficult to disprove. This is because the precise time of the accident often is not known and the telematics data and mobile-device records—once obtained—may show or suggest that the employee was talking on his mobile device, texting and/or emailing in close proximity to the time of the accident. Even if there was no actual distraction, a clever lawyer will argue there is “circumstantial evidence” of driver distraction.

The typical distracted-driving case involves multiple types of claims, including driver negligence, vicarious liability, direct negligence and punitive damages.

Driver Negligence

In states that ban texting and/or the use of handheld cell phones while driving, an employee who is involved in an accident while violating these laws will be negligent per se. Under this doctrine, the mere act of using a mobile device while driving automatically makes the driver negligent.

For states that do not have texting and/or cell-phone bans, courts look at the reasonableness of the driver’s accident-causing behavior. In evaluating behavior, courts will consider state laws, federal regulations, voluntary standards, recognized best practices and common sense. For example, in Scott v. Matlack Inc., the court explained, “it is permissible for a trial court to admit [OSHA] regulations as evidence of the standard of care in the industry in a negligence action.” Likewise, in Peal by Peal v. Smith, the court observed, “the breach of a voluntarily adopted safety rule is some evidence of a defendant’s negligence.”

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Asphalt Roofing Industry Announces Winners of 2012 Accident Prevention Contest

The asphalt roofing industry is honoring 12 companies for their commitment to safety in the workplace. The Washington, D.C.-based Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association (ARMA) recognized the winners for their outstanding safety records in the manufacture of asphalt roofing materials.

“We are extremely proud of all this year’s winners,” says Reed Hitchcock, executive vice-president of ARMA. “Safety is a No. 1 concern for all our ARMA members. The work that ARMA’s Health, Safety & Environment Committee puts into this contest every year shows our continued focus on the safety of our members and how the industry is taking proactive steps to maintain and improve on our collective safety records.”

The contest’s winners are determined by the “ARMA Index,” which scores facilities based on their safety data for the year. To ensure all participants competed against plants of comparable size and capacity, entrants were grouped by the following criteria: Group A comprised facilities with more than 300,000 labor hours worked per year; Group B included facilities with 200,000 to 300,000 labor hours; Group C with 100,000 to 200,000 labor hours; and Group D with 100,000 or fewer labor hours worked per year. The facilities were classified based on the previous year’s total labor-hours worked.

Awards were presented in four categories: President’s Award, Award of Excellence, Perfect Employee Safety Certificate and Certificate of Improvement.

President’s Award: Presented to the plant in each labor-hour group that has had the lowest combined ARMA Index over the last two years.

  • Group A: GAF, Michigan City, Ind.
  • Group B: GAF, Baltimore
  • Group C: Atlas Roofing Corp., Hampton, Ga.
  • Group D: CertainTeed Corp., Wilmington, Calif.

Award of Excellence: Presented to those plants that have recorded three consecutive years of a “perfect” ARMA Index and are not President’s Award winners.

  • CertainTeed Corp., Little Rock, Ark.
  • GAF, Walpole, Mass.
  • Henry Co., Bartow, Fla.; Houston; Huntington Park, Calif.; and Ontario, Calif.
  • Owens Corning, Brookville, Ind., and Houston
  • Owens Corning (Asphalt), Atlanta; Jacksonville, Fla.; Memphis; Minneapolis; Portland, Ore.; and Summit, Ill.
  • Tarco, North Little Rock, Ark.

Perfect Employee Safety Certificate: Presented to those plants that had a “perfect” ARMA Index for 2012.

  • Atlas Roofing Corp., Franklin, Ohio
  • CertainTeed Corp., Milan, Ohio; Oxford, N.C.; Little Rock, Ark.; and Wilmington, Calif.
  • GAF, Fresno, Calif.; Walpole, Mass.; Tampa, Fla.; Fontana, Calif.; Chester, S.C.; Shafter, Calif.; and Stockton, Calif.
  • Henry Co., Indianapolis; Ontario, Calif.; Bartow, Fla.; Huntington Park, Calif.; Kingman, Ariz.; and Houston
  • Johns Manville, Macon, Ga., and South Gate, Calif.
  • Malarkey Roofing Products, Oklahoma City
  • Owens Corning, Jacksonville, Fla.; Houston; Kearny, N.J.; Savannah, Ga.; and Brookville, Ind.
  • Owens Corning (Asphalt), Kearny, N.J.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Irving, Texas; Houston; Denver; Atlanta; Medina, Ohio; Memphis; Minneapolis; Oklahoma City; Portland, Ore.; and Summit, Ill.
  • TAMKO Building Products, Columbus, Kan.
  • Tarco, North Little Rock, Ark.

Certificate of Improvement: Presented to those plants that demonstrate an improvement in their ARMA Index of at least 25 percent compared with their previous year’s performance.

  • Atlas Roofing Corp., Ardmore, Okla.; Franklin, Ohio; and Daingerfield, Texas
  • Building Products of Canada, Joliette, Quebec, Canada; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; and LaSalle, Quebec
  • CertainTeed Corp., Oxford, N.C.; Milan, Ohio; and Norwood, Mass.
  • GAF, Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Myerstown, Pa.; Tampa, Fla.; Stockton, Calif.; Chester, S.C.; and Fontana, Calif.
  • Henry Co., Indianapolis
  • IKO Production Inc., Wilmington, Del.
  • Johns Manville, South Gate, Calif.
  • Owens Corning, Denver; Minneapolis; Summit, Ill.; Memphis; and Kearny, N.J.
  • Owens Corning (Asphalt), Oklahoma City; Medina, Ohio; Kearny, N.J.; Denver; and Houston
  • Polyglass USA Inc., Hazleton, Pa., and Winter Haven, Fla.
  • TAMKO Building Products, Joplin, Mo., and Columbus, Kan.

For each of the awards, participants must file quarterly reports, which measure key components of a comprehensive plant safety program, including lost or restricted time after an injury, OSHA reportable incidents and the labor hours worked at the location.

Connect to and Motivate Your Staff

A friend of mine recently lost his job because of budget cuts. He was employed at a satellite office and not a single manager who made the decision about his livelihood took the time to commute to the satellite location to share the news. Instead, he was called to a conference room where human resources personnel laid him off via speakerphone. My friend was not surprised he was let go, nor was he surprised by how it was done, considering how disconnected he believes the “worker bees” at his former corporation are from management. He had been disgruntled by the lack of communication and management’s questionable decision-making for some time.

I can attest that managing people is arguably one of the most difficult jobs in any line of work. Being a leader requires a thick skin, excellent communication skills and the ability to make tough decisions, among other talents. However, at a time when budgets are tightened and everyone is doing less with more, becoming too consumed in your own tasks and disconnecting from employees is a fatal mistake. Now is the time to embrace your team, make them feel appreciated, motivate them to take on new roles, and identify and reward their strengths. Employees who feel disconnected from what is occurring within a business will feel unappreciated and will not perform at their best. In addition, without employee buy-in, it will be difficult to enforce new programs and procedures within a company.

In this issue, we feature articles about two safety programs you should seriously consider implementing within your roofing business not only to protect your employees, but also to protect your business as a whole. For example, “Business Sense,” addresses distracted driving. I think you’ll be surprised by the broad interpretation of the law in some of the court cases mentioned within the article: Your roofing business could be liable if a worker has an accident while using a mobile device in his personal vehicle or sightseeing on a business trip. According to the author, state and federal mobile-device laws are not enough; developing and enforcing a reasonable mobile-device safety program is a major step toward minimizing your business’ liability.

In “Safety,” Michael Rich explains the Washington, D.C.-based Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s priority to require all businesses to have a written Injury and Illness Prevention Program probably within the next two years. California employers already have been operating under this requirement since 1991, providing a model you can duplicate within your business before the requirement is mandated across the country.

Establishing these programs within your business offers a wonderful opportunity to connect to and motivate your staff. You can create teams of volunteers to explore and create policies. When the teams meet, buy them lunch. When your staff goes six months without a distracted driving incident or an injury, celebrate with awards or a party. Take the time to show your employees you appreciate their efforts not only to make your business safer, but also to successfully execute their daily tasks.

In addition, consider setting aside some time on a regular basis specifically to reconnect with the “worker bees”. Join a roofing crew for a week, or answer phones in the front office. Your efforts will establish a new level of trust with your employees and, ultimately, create a better workplace. Perhaps most importantly, your staff will feel as though operational changes, like the safety programs mentioned in this issue, are happening “with” them rather than “to” them.