Saturday, May 6, 2017

News From The Safety Front Lines

Facts On Falls

I was working on the end of my barn the other day and decided to tackle the trim on a peak window 20 feet above the ground. I’m a former firefighter and was, in the old days, comfortable 80 feet in the air on a ladder truck or church-raised straight ladder. I set my nearly new ladder, checked the angle and climbed to the window with my tools and ladder belt fixed. Then I realized that I’m 78 years old and quietly told myself “this is dumb” and climbed down. I tell you this because OSHA has just announced another push on ladder safety.
Here’s what OSHA tells us. “Falls are the leading cause of death for construction workers, accounting for 350 of the 937 construction fatalities recorded in 2015. These and other facts about fall hazards are highlighted in new resources from OSHA that employers can use in their discussions with employees during the National Safety Stand-Down. Two videos have been posted on the Stand-Down homepage and a series of infographics can be downloaded from OSHA's Fall Prevention Campaign webpage.” You’ll find both pages very helpful at both work and home.

Learning Something New

For many people, life involves moving rapidly from one demand to another with little time for relaxation and reflection. That’s too bad. Most of the really smart, super capable people I know take time every day for decompression and learning. To that end, I refer you to the article “40 Amazing Places to Learn Something New Every Day.” No, I haven’t tried them all, but those that I have explored suggest all 40 are worth your time. You’ll find the article here.

What Do You Know About Public Health?

Last year was the one-hundredth anniversary of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and to celebrate, the School issued a list of 100 objects that have impacted public health for good or ill. Consider birth certificates, window screens, the desk chair and even American cheese. These make the list. Read the list in a Washington Post article and find out how these objects have made a difference. You’ll find it at

Social Media, Fake News and Alternative Facts
Until recently, the combined issues of social media, fake news and alternative facts have been a theme song of Number 45’s White House that I’ve found easy to write off as the confused musings of a block of hard-core staff and supporters. I know where “real” news comes from and I know that “alternative” facts don’t really exist. Then I read a piece by Steve Crimando, a member of Firestorm’s Expert Council and a specialist on psychological support operations at the Anthrax Screening Center. It’s a thoughtful, academic article that deals with real news and actual facts and one that tells readers the next threat of nuclear or biological disruption will be totally unlike past events. In the future, bad information will travel at lightning speed and panic will likely overwhelm reasonable and thoughtful efforts to inform the public. To read the full article, click here.
Job Requirements In The United States

Do you ever wonder what other people must do at work and how hard the work might be? For many people, all they know about the workplace is what they’ve learned at the places where they work or have worked. In fact, it’s a big world out there and the range of work is all over the place. Each year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics issues a summary of job requirements and the data is quite instructive. For example, 61% of the average workday is spent standing or walking. The average lift at work is a maximum of 36 pounds. Nearly two thirds of workers must reach overhead. For the press release on the report, click here. There is much more information in the press release and there is a link at the end to take you to more detail.

Serious Workplace Injuries Cost Over $1 Billion Per Week!

EHS Today reports that the Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index now shows serious, nonfatal workplace injuries in the U.S. amount to nearly $60 billion in direct workers compensation costs annually. Add the minor injuries and non-compensation costs typical of workplace injuries such as overtime, replacement training costs, lost productivity, reduced productivity, product damage and uncompensated costs to the individual and the total figure is much, much higher. To see the EHS article and additional data, click here.

Employee Safety Impacted by Financial Goals

A recent article in EHS Today reports on a study by two accounting professors that disclosed any effort to increase earnings (such as increased workloads, hours worked, speed of work flow and cuts in discretionary expenses) resulted in an increase in injury/illness rates. Less union presence, a lower link between compensation premiums and claims and when the firms have less government business all strengthen the relationship between injuries and benchmark beating. For the full article, click here.  
CSB Releases ExxonMobil Explosion Report
A February 18, 2015 explosion at the ExxonMobil Refinery in Torrance, CA, caused extensive property damage and contaminated the environment up to a mile away. The investigation disclosed numerous problems, including failure of the safety management process system, unverified safeguards, no pre-established safe operating limits, use of outdated procedures and degraded equipment. The plant was subsequently sold by ExxonMobil and since then has experienced multiple additional incidents. To read the full CSB press release, click here.
AMA Issues LED Light Warming

This is the lead paragraph from a Washington Post article of last fall. “The American Medical Association issued a warning in June that high-intensity LED streetlights  such as those in Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, Houston and elsewhere emit unseen blue light that can disturb sleep rhythms and possibly increase the risk of serious health conditions, including cancer and cardiovascular disease. The AMA also cautioned that those light-emitting-diode lights can impair nighttime driving vision.” With LEDs comprising 13% of roadway lighting in the US, concern is obvious. However, adjusting the light to be more yellow may be a solution. For more on the story, click here. Photo by Plillips
Say No To 12 Foot Traffic Lanes!

For high volume urban and local streets, the experts say we should return to the old standard of 10 foot width and no more. We’ve crept up over the years to 11 and 12 foot lanes with the belief that wider lanes are safer. But, the are not! Relax, high speed roads can still be 12 feet wide because we expect people to drive above the posted speed (nominally 70 MPH) and the wider lanes account for that. On city streets, however, drivers tend to ignore the posted speeds and drive at what they see as a safe speed. However, you have more pedestrians and bikes in the city and the pedestrians have further to walk to clear traffic and the bikes don’t fit. And, with higher speed on wider lanes, pedestrian death rates climb dramatically because 30 MPH is 7 times more deadly than 20 MPH if you’re hit. There is lots more on this topic in the Atlantic CityLab article at You will also find references in the piece to other articles on the topic. The image accompanies an article by Jeff Speck on John Rosenbarger's 12-ft wide Spring Street traffic lanes: “A 12-foot lane is a 70 mph lane" says Speck.

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Sunday, April 30, 2017

The April Wrap-Up

The CSB and The Business Case for Safety

The U. S. Chemical Safety Board released a business case for safety on April 14 based on its review of four major chemical incidents. Looking at the costs associated with the 2005 explosion and fire at BP Texas City, the 2010 explosion and fire aboard the Macondo/Deepwater Horizon oil rig, the 2012 explosion and fire at the Chevron Refinery and the 2013 fire and massive explosion at West Fertilizer, the CSB concludes that hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent to deal with the result of chemical incidents it has investigated. Each of the four CSB accident investigations detail both human and financial tolls that these incidents had on the company and the surrounding communities. To see the report summary, click here

People Are Dying To Avoid Using Seat Belts

That’s correct. Fourteen percent of Americans do not wear seat belts regularly in moving vehicles! But wait! Nearly 86% do, so what’s the big deal? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the unbelted make up roughly half of all motor vehicle fatalities. Another interesting fact about seat belt use is that states and counties where belt use is a primary enforcement priority (in other words, a seat belt violation alone can get your stopped) have a much higher rate of seat belt use. For a U.S. map by county showing seat belt use and other information on the subject, see the Washington Post article here.

America’s Toxic Workplace

OSHA has estimated that chemical exposure kills 50,000 American workers a year and sickens more than 190,000, but Dr. David Michaels (OSHA head under President Obama) and other experts say these figures are gross underestimates. The reason is complicated. EPA exposure limits for the general population are often much lower than OSHA limits. In many cases, there are no OSHA permissible exposure limits or the existing limits are out of date. Finally, limits are driven by economic and technological feasibility rather than risk assessments. As for a solution to this problem, it will depend heavily on the Trump regulatory policies and Alexander Acosta, the new Labor Secretary.  For more on this subject, see the opinion piece by Rachel Cernansky in the April 10 New York Times at  
The Federal Crime Agenda

According to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, crime is surging in American cities and that belief is likely to drive the Trump approach to addressing crime. Strangely, however, Number 45 and his AG are misinformed. While violent crime has risen in Baltimore and Chicago, driving most of the rise Mr. Sessions cites, crime overall in the nation’s 30 largest cities has fallen! As The Atlantic’s CityLab reports, “violent crime has dropped from 716 incidents per capita to 366, and murder from 9.8 killings per 100,000 to 5.3” in the past 25 years. While reality trumps belief, there are several moves afoot to address the crime “increase.” To read about them in the CityLab article by Brentin Mock, click here.

Boston Trench Collapse Brings Heavy Charges

On October 21, 2016, in Boston, Robert Higgins (47) and Kelvin Mattocks (53) died when the 12-foot trench they were working in collapsed, breaking a fire main and filling the hole with water in seconds. OSHA has cited their employer, Atlantic Drain Service, Inc., previously for the same conditions. Atlantic Drain faces $1,475,813 in penalties and the company owner has been charged with two counts of manslaughter. You’ll find full reports on the OSHA web site and in EHS Magazine at
What gets me is that the report and the citations are just words and numbers, but I found a photo of Steven Smith, a co-worker of Higgins and Mattocks, who tried desperately to rescue his co-workers and failed. His anguish in photos by Mark Garfinkel of the Boston Herald is haunting. You’ll find the piece on his story at

Psychological Traits Can Predict Safe Behavior
Esteban Tristan, Ph.D., writing in EHS Magazine on-line, reports on some fascinating psychological studies that point to our ability to predict and control Serious Injuries and Fatalities (SIFs). SIFs comprise about 21% of all incidents and are those that result in time lost from work, life-altering injuries and loss of life. Over two thirds of all SIFs come from not following life saving rules or from unexpected changes in exposure. While injuries are often the result of multiple complex factors, says Tristan, human behavior plays an important role in the outcome of any event. In a large study, researchers tested on the four psychological factors associated with safety-related behaviors and incidents and found that those who tested low on the factors were eleven times more likely to sustain a serious injury! To read the full article, click here. 
Understanding Highway Speed Limits
Pick up the local newspaper or watch the evening news and you will frequently find an article that deals with speeding and related traffic issues. For drivers, the speed limit may seem to be too low. For nearby residents and pedestrians, the speeds are often viewed as too high. Who makes the ultimate decision and how is the decision made? If you need to answer that question, the Federal Highway Administration has developed a helpful fact sheet on the subject. It’s one page, available in PDF format for printing and distribution, and it’s available here.

How To Handle An Overbook Flight or (Name A Crisis)

Guy Higgins, writing in Firestorm’s regular newsletter, discusses the United Airlines “re-accommodation” of a passenger boarded at Chicago bound for Louisville. Much of the article has already been reported extensively, but his suggestions at the end about anticipating, and addressing, a crisis is instructive. You’ll find the article here. 

America’s Gun Problem Explained

Both the American public and research support gun control; but Congress refuses to take action. Vox News has written an excellent article on the topic that tells us whey we’re where we are and what could help—if the will power is found. The article has lots of charts and data and information on the rest of the World and how the gun issue is handled. If you’d like to be informed, read the article at 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Safety, Politics, Or Both

Is The Dawson Safety Digest Political?

That was the suggestion recently from a reader. “I am seeing more political pieces than those dealing with safety. What’s up?” There’s a simple answer. What I’ve dealt with for sixty years is keeping people, their things and their environment safe. That effort has included workplace safety, public safety, the environment, security, personal protection and anything related to these areas. Now we’ve entered the Trump era and protections are being rolled back, countered, downgraded, attacked and ignored. So yes! The DSD can’t help but get “political” when efforts to protect the worker, the worker’s family and the general public that have moved us consistently forward over the past 100 years have reversed course in a matter of weeks by the actions of the “new” federal government. If your safety and well-being is to be ensured, we all have to be “political.”

Why Our Internet Privacy Rights Have Gone Bye-Bye

In the last issue of the Dawson Safety Digest there were two articles addressing the Congressional action to allow Internet providers to sell the personal data of subscribers without permission. It’s a little like giving someone a stick to poke you and then telling you “tough, you can’t do anything about it!” Since then there has been discussion in my home about how this action by House and Senate Republicans could make any sense. Today, my favorite researcher and significant other came to me with the answer. What she found was fundamental—it’s the money honey!

Using several helpful sites, she found that the Internet service companies (who will now be able to sell your data) made significant contributions to Republican federal office holders nationwide. In the Senate, the average “donation” was $70,779 and Mitch McConnell received the most at $251,110. In the House, it averaged $26,129. The total for Republicans in both chambers was over $9,000,000! And that’s the payout for just one vote on one of many issues! No Democrats received a donation, by the way.

Since we’re in New York State, we did some checking on our local Republican House members and here’s how they did: Chris Collins $57,500, Daniel Donovan $16,000, John Katko $32,250, Peter King $9,000, Tom Reed $31,500 and Claudia Tenney $8,500, The other Republicans from New York State, John Faso, Elise Stefanik and Lee Zeldin did not sell their votes. So where are we? For $154,750, six office holders elected to represent our interests sold out the privacy rights of an estimated 17,775,000 New Yorkers with Internet access. I wonder what bazar action they’ll take next.

Here are some articles related to this topic.

How much Comcast paid for your browser history is at

Keeping Workers Safe on the Road

April is distracted driving month, which leads me to this introduction from the latest NIOSH eNews. "Millions of workers drive or ride in a motor vehicle as part of their jobs. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of work-related injury deaths in the United States, accounting for 23,865 deaths from 2003–2015. These deaths have an impact on workers, their families, businesses, and communities. In 2013 alone, motor vehicle crashes at work cost U.S. employers $25 billion—$65,000 per nonfatal injury and $671,000 per death." For more on the subject with several helpful resources, click here.

Are You Dying For More Sleep?

On average, eight hours of sleep is best, but surveys I’ve done over the years in my training programs suggest that the vast majority of workers get less than seven hours a night. Some get as little as four hours. In fact, when I questioned one young woman about how she could get by on four hours, her body shook and trembled as she said, “I have a very high metabolism!” Really! I could visualize her falling down stairs she appeared so unstable. You’ll find more on the topic in the NIOSH eNews at

Climate Change Promises Increased Air Turbulence

Researchers at the University of Reading in the UK are predicting a three times increase in significant air turbulence affecting airline passengers with the predicted increase in global warming. The turbulence they predict is the type that will throw unbuckled passengers around the cabin. Sadly, the policies of Number 45 will do nothing to slow the trend and may well make things much worse. For the full article on the topic from CityLab, click here.

High-Tech Medicine—A U.S. Myth!

There is an assumption that the U.S. investment in health care technologies and specialists makes the country a leader in patient outcomes. Not so says a Commonwealth Fund report that finds that Cystic Fibrosis patients live ten years longer in Canada than in the United States! And, the gap is widening. The reason, according to the researchers, is that the universal health care system of Canada ensures every patient gets quality care. In the U.S., the high number of uninsured patients leaves a large number of patients with very poor outcomes. The full report is enlightening and disturbing. You’ll find it at  
If Companies Want Every Worker To Go Home “Whole”, Why Do They Make It So Difficult?

This is the question asked by my friend Dave Johnson, Editor of ISHN Magazine, in his editorial in the April 2017 issue. After discussing the emotional words in safety sloganeering, Dave suggests that if employers really cared about their people, health benefits would not get trimmed annually, jobs wouldn’t get outsourced and family members would be included in wellness and health outreach programs. There are exceptions, Dave says, but not nearly enough. To read the full editorial, click here.