While preparing for a class scheduled in the next couple of weeks, I decided to look on the CSB's (Chemical Safety Board) website. They have videos featuring several different chemical accidents that reveiws what happened and how it could have been prevented. These videos are a mix of interviews with employees and experts, video footage and animation of what is believed to have happened. These videos can be a valuable tool to use for training both workers and rescue personell. You can access their website at http://www.csb.gov/
Attended a NIMS ICS-300 class this week. This class discussed the incident command process for larger incidents and events. For the non-Fire service folks, this is basically a resource management process or system. One of the early process steps in dealing with an incident is to develop incident objectives. These objectives guide the mitigation priorities to ensure life safety, incident stabilization and property preservation. The incident objectives state what will be accomplished.
Incident objectives need to be Specific in describing the objective, Measurable, Action oriented, Realistic and Time sensitive. You can use the acronym SMART as a tool in remembering the characteristics for good objectives.
Confined space fatalities are totally preventable. Over the last three years, the annual average fatality rate is over 100 deaths. If these deaths are preventable, then why are there still people dying in confined spaces? I believe that there are several key factors as to why. First, there is a "mentality" of the would be rescuer. Believing that one can save another persons life under any condition is naive. Professional rescuers train continuously on a wide range of equipment and potential scenarios. It is unlikely that a "layman" rescuer has the equipment, training or ability to conduct a rescue requiring vessel entry. It is hard to stand by and do nothing, but that is what it takes to save your own life. Your family and friends depend on it. Second, some facilities do not have proper policies or procedures to instruct the worker as to what are acceptable actions. Without guidance, a person will do what he or she believes is the best course of action. Finally, do the workers have the proper training on the procedures and equipment that they are being asked to use. Any loss of life or injury involving confined spaces is tragic; these incidents are totally preventable.
OSHA has sent letters to over 10,000 grain handling facilities last month, warning them of the hazards associated with workers entering storage bins. Over 50 people lost their lives in grain bin accidents in 2010 alone. Several of those were in Illinois. OSHA has a Fact Sheet that outlines some of the hazards and provides recommendations for mitigation. Grain storage bins are dangerous for workers to enter due to bridging and "running" characteristics of the grain. Confined space protocols and proper equipment can protect workers as they enter grain storage bins to perform their duties.
I was working this weekend teaching hazmat. Talking with another instructor, who is a career firefighter, about workplace injuries. Some occupations are inherently risky. Some require employees to take "calculated" risks inorder to save anothers life. During the risk evaluation, we try to evaluate all hazards and come up with a plan to acheive our goal. Sometimes this is formal, sometimes informal. When someone gets injuried during this task, then people sit down to make sure that it doesn't happen a gain. Which is great, but what about the tasks that almost lead to an injury or a Near Miss. If we spend some time looking at the almost injuries, we can reduce our actual injuries. For firefighers, a national reporting system exists, but not many know about it or use it. Here is a link. http://www.firefighternearmiss.com/
Every sector of business can benifit from a near miss reporting program, wether internal or external.
A little story about a friend.
My friend was cutting wood with a new chain saw. Everything was progressing well, lots of progress, sharp chain and plenty of wood to cut. My friend had his safety gear on, safety glasses, ear plugs and steel toed shoes. When he was finished cutting the log, as he had done hundreds of times before, he moved the saw, which unfortunately contacted his upper thigh. Luckily, between the insulated coveralls, jeans and the key fob for his truck, there was no injury. A near miss. This is a great lesson learned, but not the only lesson to learn.
After talking with my friend, this is not the first time that this had happened. He has other jeans that bear the jagged rip of the chain saw. Why did he not learn the first time? What was he thinking?
Well, turns out after the first time, he looked into kevlar chaps to protect his legs. But, they were $100. A little more than he wanted to pay. So, you guessed it, no chaps!!
Why is it that when it comes to accident or injury prevention, we are reluctant to pay money up front? I know for sure that if he had actually cut his leg, he would have paid a lot more than $100, and wished he had bought the chaps.
It seems that for some people, they are willing to gamble that "it won't happen to me". In case it does, I have workers comp or insurance to cover it. But what about the non-tangible costs like pain, inconvienence, guilt, lost productivity, mobility etc.
In my book, prevention is a better route to take. It is an easy concept to understand, yet our practice is not what we preach.
I went to a training class this morning called Fire and Smoke. The instructor was with the Illinois Fire Service Institute. He was great. It is amazing how some times the smoke will tell you whats going on, but other times it does not. You may have heard of the terms backdraft and flashover, but what about smoke explosion? A smoke explosion is when there are super heated gases at their ignition temperature, just waiting for an ignition source. These explosions are strong enough to blow firefighters off their feet. To see an example, check out this video clip. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTQWNCeCBvQ
There was really no advance warning for this except for a couple of seconds before the explosion. It is very important to take time to assess the situation.
Greg is a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager, CHMM and is a 20-year veteran of the Manufacturing and Safety Professions. His background includes extensive experience ranging from industrial chemistry to engineering to plant management for a chemical manufacturer. His interest and passion for health and safety/environmental and risk analysis led him to pursue a way to share his knowledge of these fields with others. Greg holds a B.A. degree in chemistry and is a certified instructor with the Illinois Fire Service. He is also an authorized and certified outreach instructor/trainer with OSHA and a First Aid/CPR/AED instructor with the American Heart Association. He is a technician with the MABAS Division 25 Hazardous Materials Response Team and a professional member of the American Society of Safety Engineers. Greg serves his community as the Assistant Fire Chief with the Spring Valley Fire Department and as an Emergency Medical Technician – Intermediate. Since 2006, Greg has been President of All Risk Training and Safety, Inc. He teaches and consults with corporate management and safety professionals across the Midwest.