Thursday, February 2, 2017

Are We Being Conned

I'm back! The election took all of my time and I confess to having had little energy for writing about occupational safety and related topics. To start this year anew, I would like to share a recent article I wrote that does draw on my expertise at safety and data analysis. It certainly has a political bent, so if you prefer, don't read it. Chip

I’m a safety engineer. I’ve been in the business of saving lives for over 60 years. My profession and my effectiveness demand that I use research, well supported facts and tested rules in my efforts.

That’s why I have been convinced for some time that the new team in Washington and their leader is seriously misinformed, ignorant or simply pathological liars in their efforts to convince the American people that their decisions and actions are essential to the health of the nation. They are wrong and the consequences will be deadly to many of us. 

Here’s why. Most of what they do and say bear little relationship to American threats. Consider the compilation here by Skye Gould of the Business Insider. They may be issues that allow president Trump and his inner circle to lead by fear, but they pose almost no threat to people.

Disease, in all it’s forms, is the most likely cause of death, yet the administration wants to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

One in every thirty-one people will die in an accident, yet federal agencies are being ordered to eliminate two rules for every one introduced.

Death by gun shot ranks 1 in 358, yet the administration has promised to expand the rights of gun owners and ease regulations that weed out terrorists, criminals and the mental ill.

Death by police has a 1 in 8,359 risk, but a painting by an 18 year old high school student that addressed police violence and was hanging in the Capital has been removed as “offensive.”

Terrorism, including actions by citizens, has a 1 in 45,808 risk of death. But when you consider refugee terrorist caused death, the risk goes to 1 in over 46 million! Death caused by an illegal immigrant is even higher at 1 in 138 million—that’s a little over two deaths in the entire U.S. population! And yet, we are closing our borders, defaming an entire religion and scaring people silly for no valid reason! 

Yes, we are being conned! It’s time to demand facts and logic and sensitivity. The Emperor has no clothes!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Life, Both Strange and Wonderful!

Fall starts in a very few days, but as I write this, the temperature is 84° and the record for days over 90° in Rochester is still in jeopardy. We’re seven inches under average for rain and even Lake Ontario is feeling the impact of the draught. And, to top it all off, we still have 50 days of a political season like no other in my memory. What follows is a collection of items of interest to this old safety guy with,  I promise, only one nod to politics. I won’t tell you where I stand, but you can probably guess. So, here goes.

Workplace Safety and the Presidential Candidates

For starters, I took a look at the published platforms for Ms. Clinton and Mr. Trump to see what they say about workplace safety. I found nothing. Mr. Johnson says that he’ll cut the federal budget by 43%, so it may be safe to assume that money for workplace safety will be very hard to come by. Having struck out on official platforms, I looked for reports by others.

The non-profit Corporate Research Project prepared a report on safety in Trump-controlled properties. You’ll find it here (, but you won’t find it encouraging. Next I went to the OSHA Establishment Search since 2008 that shows 21 entries with the name Trump with violations issued at 9 of the facilities totaling 23 violations. Two inspections were due to accidents (both at Trump National Golf Course), 10 due to complaints and 5 due to referrals. His organization is so big under so many different names that it is likely a more comprehensive search would turn up many more OSHA cases.

Bloomberg/BNA prepared a report on Ms. Clinton on June 9th and this paints a very positive picture. Her track record is good and she’s said to be “an important ally” for working people. You’ll find the BNA report here. 

Repurposing Wooden Pallets

Old pallets seem to be popular these days. The wood is often of decent quality and once they are unfit for further business use, creative minds are busy looking at other uses. That’s why I thought you’d enjoy this image a friend sent.

The Educated Worker Pipeline Is Critical

We can talk all we want about safety, but if you can’t find workers who are educated, smart and perceptive, it’s tough to build a culture that values safety (and the other critical elements of a top workplace). This is why I got so excited reading an article in The Atlantic about how the Finish education system always ranks at or very close to the top year after year. How they do it is amazing…and exactly the opposite of what American school reformers are trying to do. In Finland, ALL schools are public, free and non-competitive and there is no school choice. The goal is never excellence; but equity! With this they rank top in the World! This approach, of course, runs straight up against what politicians in the U.S. are demanding and it’s clear from the article that politicians and school reformers in the U.S. have no idea what they are talking about. To read the full article, click here  Then, pass it on to as many people as you can!

Unbelievable Missouri!

It is very difficult to be a safety person and not believe that reasonable controls on gun possession and use are essential to public safety. That’s why a New York Times editorial the other day left me appalled. The Missouri legislature has overridden the Governor’s veto and allowed the implementation of a law that will remove ALL controls on guns in the state. Here’s a paragraph from the editorial: The law will let citizens carry concealed weapons in public without a state gun permit, criminal background check or firearms training. It strips local law enforcement of its current authority to deny firearms to those guilty of domestic violence and to other high-risk individuals. And it establishes a dangerous “stand your ground” standard that will allow gun owners to shoot and claim self-defense based on their own sense of feeling threatened.” You can read the full editorial here: 

Concussion? Leave The Game!

In a study reported in the New York Times, student athletes who immediately left the game following a concussion recovered twice as fast as those who continued playing. On average, recovery of those who immediately began a 24 to 48 hour rest period recovered in 22 days vs. those who resumed play and took 44 days to recover. It is estimated that there are up to 3.8 million sports-related concussions in the United States annually and young athletes are most susceptible to prolonged recovery and complications from concussion. No mention here of work-related concussions, but one can assume that similar rules on rest and medical observation apply. To see the full report, click here.

Arizona Wants To Legalize Pot! Is It Safe?

Marijuana legalization is on the ballot in Arizona in November and the governor is against the measure. It will exacerbate the opioid problem, he believes. So is he right? Not according to the folks at the Washington Post who did some research. Here’s what they found.

Marijuana is addictive, but much less so than alcohol. It’s also much less toxic to the body than alcohol. Fifteen shots of booze can kill you, but there is no known fatal dose of pot. Alcohol is known to increase driving risk substantially, but smoking weed seems to have little effect on crash statistics. Finally, there is no evidence to suggest that pot leads to violent behavior. I doubt we’re ready for pot use in the workplace any more than alcohol or other drugs are condoned. But, if you’re trying to put things in perspective, this research might help. You’ll find the article at 

Los Angeles Smog Status

It’s been years since I was in LA, but all the murder mysteries I read that are set in the city make smog an integral part of the environment. Apparently that’s changed, in large part by the environmental regulations the state has implemented. Long known for pushing far ahead of the rest of the country with safety, health and environmental regulations, the attached picture strongly suggests the efforts have paid off.

Big Cities Ask Drivers To Slow Down!

Seattle is the latest city to lower speed limits…30 to 25 mph on main corridors and 25 to 20 mph on residential roads. The move is part of “Vision Zero” to end all traffic fatalities in cities. Better highway engineering, enhanced enforcement and improved education of all road users are also components of the concept. In all, 17 cities are trying the approach, including New York (which pulled in $1.9 billion in fees and fines last year through increased enforcement). The big question, of course, is whether drivers will actually change their behavior. If they drive 40 in a 30 mph zone, will a 25 mph limit make any difference? But if drivers do slow down, it will make a difference. A pedestrian struck by a car traveling 30 mph has a 45 percent chance of being seriously injured or killed—a probability that drops to just 5 percent at 20 mph. To read the CityLab article, click here.

The Sound of Safety

“The Hills are Alive, with the Sound of...Safety? As you walk through the boulevard of Lancaster, California you'll hear birds chirping, water streaming, and piano notes echoing not only to sooth your stroll but to calm would-be criminals. The soundscape was used to deter minor criminal activity along the main street in downtown Lancaster. Minor crimes dropped in Lancaster by 15% that year.” says Ryan writing in

To get the full story, I went to the NPR TED Radio Hour where sound expert Julian Treasure addressed the importance of what we hear (and don’t hear). Discussing “How Can We All Listen Better?”, Treasure reported that we spend 60% of our communication time listening, but that we retain just 25% of what we hear. Listening is our access to our understanding…and we’re losing that. One other fascinating fact (of many on the program) is that open plan offices result in a 66% reduction in productivity. For the full program, including discussion of the Lancaster experiment, go to: 

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Late Summer Round-up

Are You Being Controlled By A Parasite?

Really!? “No!!!” you say. How do you know? I just watched a TED Talk by Ed Yong, who has a PhD in biochemistry and reports on science issues for The Atlantic. In 15 minutes, Yong discusses Zombie Roaches and other parasites that have the ability to control the minds and actions of their hosts, including all form of mammal. I’m a mammal and it left me drifting in the world of science fiction. According to Yong, one third of the world’s people are believed to have brain parasites. Are they just “there?” Or do they actually impact behavior in some way? Do they impact Presidential candidates? Perhaps we shouldn’t go there; but you should go to Yong’s talk at 

Falls Cause Most Deaths from Traumatic Brain Injury in Construction

The next time you see construction workers on scaffolding or a roof tens of feet above the ground, bear in mind that their occupation is one of the most dangerous in the country. From 2003 to 2010, 2,210 construction workers died from work-related traumatic brain injury (TBI), usually as the result of a fall from a height, according to a recent study at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The risk of dying from a TBI varied according to sex, age, country of birth, occupation, and size of the construction company. To read the NIOSH report, click here.

The More The Boss Makes, The Less Workers Approve

The careers web site The Glassdoor, in a statistical analysis, has found that the more money corporate CEOs make for their “great” performance, the lower the ratings they get from their workers. "No matter how you look at the data, we found a negative link between CEO pay and CEO approval ratings,” says the report. The explanation of this finding seems to be that people (workers) pay attention and that high CEO pay suggests high CEO quality, but workers know better. The study also found other factors that impact CEO approval ratings. You’ll find this very interesting piece of work from the Washington Post at

Light Pollution Has Huge Impact

Look at a photo of earth from space and you can clearly identify the major cities of the World…and many smaller ones. Step outside to watch a meteor shower and realize that the only light show you’ll see is the human-generated glow around you. Work in an environment with excessive light and you’ll find discomfort and other adverse health effects. I didn’t realize the full significance of light pollution until I watched a three-minute video produced by the Aeon Media Group titled “Lost In Light”. You’ll find it here.

Campus Carry In Austin

A 2015 Texas law has legalized the carrying of concealed firearms on college campuses. As it turns out, hundreds of students and faculty at the University of Texas in Austin, the site of the bell tower mass shooting fifty years ago on August 1st, are not happy about the move. Even though a very small percentage of students are eligible to have concealed carry permits, the effort to keep guns off campus has gained considerable strength. In researching ways to protest the law, one student checked the school rulebook that follows the state obscenity clause. At the University of Texas at Austin, “it’s a misdemeanor to openly brandish or distribute these objects that portray the human genitalia in turgid form.” Thus was born the protest method to be used this fall called “Cocks Not Glocks” featuring, you guessed it, the open display of dildos. For the full story, click here.

Avoid The Left Lane…You’ll Make Driving Safer

The speed limit is 65 and you’re driving 65, so you’re okay in the left lane on a multi-lane highway, right? No! The rule is always pass left and then return to the right lane. Most states make it illegal to park in the left lane and, get this; it’s much safer if you stay in the right lane except when passing. To learn why and watch a video that discusses this issue, click here. 

Washing Machine Increases School Attendance

Wow! Think about it. Poor kids skip school not because they are bored or bad or on the prowl for trouble, it’s because they don’t have clean clothes to wear to school. This was the finding of a St. Louis elementary school principal. She approached Whirlpool for a washer and dryer for her school that was made available all day for children to bring in clothes from home to wash. In the first year, over 90% of the tracked students increased their attendance and also showed more motivation in class. This shows what a good investigation and creative solution will yield. See the full story at

English Village Becomes Climate Leader

There are still plenty of climate change deniers, but you won’t find them in Ashton Hayes, England. The 1,000 folks who live there have joined to cut emissions by 24% in the past ten years. No government help. No push from outsiders. Simply a realization that things had to change and a common approach to make it happen. To read the full New York Times article, click here.

Pain Relief. What Works?

All pain relievers…aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen…carry risks and negative side effects. However, a study of research points to ibuprofen as the safest of the three and most effective. To read the report on the pain reliever of choice, click here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Summer Clearance Special

Toyota Uncontrolled Acceleration—The Myth

Malcolm Gladwell, the English-born Canadian journalist and author of the best-selling Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers, is on my desktop again with a new podcast series called “Revisionist History” in which he reports on the real story behind some well-known events in history. Episode eight—The Blame Game—is one my friends in the safety business will find fascinating. Beginning in the summer of 2009, Toyota owners by the hundreds reported their cars were suddenly and uncontrollably accelerating. Toyota recalled 10 million vehicles, paid fines in excess of $1 billion and settled endless lawsuits. After all that, Gladwell has now shown that it was not the cars, it was the drivers. The drivers became confused and pressed the accelerator to the floor yet never touched the brake. As with so many other situations, the problem was exclusively human error. You’ll find this well researched and documented story on-line at

Improving Trauma Care

Jerry Laws, editor of OHS magazine, has a fascinating editorial in the August issue of the magazine. He reports that 20% of all U.S. trauma deaths (30,000 people in 2014) could have been saved through better care. To get that care, he says, the country should combine military and civilian trauma care systems. Military medicine has learned much from the wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan that can be utilized in civilian care. And, with the demand on the military trauma system lessening, military medical personnel could keep their skills current by working in the civilian system. Jerry is simply reporting an idea that comes from a medical study group. To read the full editorial, click here.

Poison Ivy Blues

At about age 55, I became susceptible to poison ivy. I can find it quicker than I can find a lost golf ball, but it still finds me once or twice a season. I’ve come to consider myself something of an expert on the identification, eradication and treatment of poison ivy exposure but I ran across a video the other day that was mind-boggling. In it, Jim Brauker, PhD (in biomedical science studying skin inflammation) demonstrates that it’s the abrasion of a damp washcloth that does the most effective job of removing the urushiol oil. To see his demonstration, click here. The next time I’m exposed, I’ll test the theory myself.

Crime Reduction Takes A New Tack

When I was consulting with the Rochester Police Department in the 1990s, the New York City approach to crime (broken windows and stop and frisk) was the model. Preemptive strikes, you might call them. Logically, they made sense. But now, 25 years later, the data says otherwise. As a result of strong community pressure —and a federal judge’s ruling that “stop and frisk” was unconstitutional—the last two NYC police commissioners have been phasing out the practice. So has crime increased? Not at all! It’s gone down! To see a CityLab report from The Atlantic on the subject, click here. 

Gender-Separated Privy Use

Historically, toilet spaces were gender-neutral. Everyone shared the same bathroom. With the arrival of the Victorian era and industrialized workspaces, however, there came a feeling that the public spaces were for men and the women (who were viewed as weaker and prone to bouts of hysteria) needed private spaces. This view was codified in Massachusetts in 1887 and was the law in 40 states by 1920. During this period we also found racially segregated toilet facilities. Today, we’ve come to realize that sexual classification is not as easy as it once was and the old fears of predators, disease and the unclean now combine with gross misinformation to make the whole topic of bathrooms politically and socially offensive. The solution, enlightened people believe, is to return to the gender-neutral bathrooms of old. To read an interesting and helpful Vox article on the topic, click here.

Traffic Laws DO Make Us Safer!

Research by the Auto Insurance Center looked at several aspects of driving safety and the associated laws and found a direct correlation between enforcement of laws and a traffic safety. For example, where speed limits are higher, fatalities are more common. The states with the highest fine level for failure to use seat belts have the lowest seat belt-preventable fatality rates. In fact, there are 15 kinds of laws that would make driving much safer if all states adopted them. In the meantime, try driving in the states that do have the strictest laws and enforcement. The source article for this topic is in the Washington Post at this link.

How About A Six-Hour Work Day?

You bet! Trial runs of a six-hour workday in Sweden are proving to be very effective. First, it’s much easier to stay focused on tasks over six-hours. Productivity does not suffer, health is better, time with family is extended, and people are happier and better rested. You’ll find a full article on the topic at this link.

Maintainers Make the World Go Round

It’s the innovators who get the glory…Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Henry Ford, George Eastman…but it’s the maintainers who keep society moving. At a conference this spring, participants looked at how some of history’s biggest disasters were the result of deferred infrastructure maintenance. Other topics discussed were the role of cleanliness in industry and the importance of the caregiver. Most labor is said to be involved in keeping things going. The full CityLab article on the Maintainers is at

It’s Break Time

How’s this for a lead on a story about productivity? “As a general rule, you should take more breaks than you already are. Studies show that in the morning, we can work for (at most) 90 minutes at a time before we begin to lose focus. Throughout the day, we should break for about 15 minutes for every hour we work.” No kidding! Why didn’t I know about this 45 years ago? See the full blog article by Chris Bailey here.  

Friday, July 8, 2016

Summer Observations, Thoughts and Snipits

OSHA Penalties Increase January 1, 2017

Civil penalties for violation of various federal regulations have not increased since 1990, so in 2015 Congress passed the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act to allow federal agencies to add an inflation adjuster to penalties.  Really, it’s true, Congress actually did something! One result is that OSHA maximum penalties will see an increase of 78%. Specifically, the existing $7,000 maximum penalty for Serious violations, Other-Than-Serious violations, violations of Posting Requirements and Failure to Abate will all go to $12,471. The $70,000 Willful or Repeated violation maximum now becomes $124,709.

Temporary Workers In the “Gig” Economy

Who’s responsible for the safety and health of temps? OSHA’s answer: it’s a two-way obligation, with both agencies and host employers having responsibilities. In 2014, the agency issued a memorandum to its regional administrators stating, “In general, OSHA will consider the staffing agency and host employer to be ‘joint employers’ of the worker…  as joint employers, both the host employer and the staffing agency have responsibilities for protecting the safety and health of the temporary worker under the OSH Act.”

This guidance comes from the ISHN June 2016 issue cover story, written by my long-time friend and editor, Dave Johnson. This is part One of a series that addresses a critical and growing issue in business. To read the full article, including some Chip Dawson quotes, click here.

Hazard Control By Shrink Wrap

See a hazard? You know the rules. Eliminate it if you can. If not, control it until a permanent solution can be found. That’s why I give a big kudo to the owner of a small shopping complex where a driver struck a brick-encased pillar causing deformation and a loss of numerous bricks. Let me be clear, however. The praise is for creativity and not for problem resolution. You can see what I’ve writing about in the accompanying photo.

Hands-Only CPR Saving More Lives

The old CPR rules have changed. Gone are the detailed instructions about when you breathe for a patient and when you do chest compressions. Too complicated for many and troublesome for others who feared clamping their mouth over that of a stranger. No longer do you need to check for a pulse, clear an airway or watch for evidence of air intake. Now it’s “pump the chest until help arrives!” People can learn in 60 seconds to do basic chest compressions at 100 beats a minutes and get a 50% survival rate! To read a Washington Post article on the new approach, click here. 

Ivanka Trump Scarves Recalled For Flammability Standard Violation

So sorry to have to bring you this news, but the CPSC has ordered the recall of over 20,000 Ivanka Trump-branded scarves, Beach Wave, in blue, coral and yellow; and Brushstroke Oblong, in blue, red, neutral and green. Both scarves are 76 inches long by 24 inches wide. Scarves are 100 percent rayon with a machine-rolled hem. A black label with “IVANKA TRUMP” embroidered in silver is sewn on the edge of the scarves. Reportedly, the scarves do not meet the federal flammability standards for clothing textiles, posing a burn risk. The scarves were sold at Century 21, Lord & Taylor, Marshalls, TJ Maxx and Stein Mart retail stores nationwide, and online at and from October 2014 through January 2016 for between $12 and $68. How’s that for a price range?! Consumers can contact GBG Accessories Group toll-free at 888-771-9047 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or via email at for more information and a full refund. No report of any involvement by daddy in this matter.

Straight Answers To Scary Symptoms

We’ve all done it. We become aware of a couple of weird symptoms and run to Google for the answer to what’s happening in our bodies. And what do we get? Probably a discussion of some strange and fatal disease that gives you days to live and puts you in an immediate panic. Or perhaps several choices on how you are about to have your life take a nosedive. Now those days are gone. Google has partnered with Harvard Medical and the Mayo Clinic to create “symptom search” where you get information about common health problems that can be related to your symptoms along with self-help treatment. If it’s serious, they’ll suggest you call your doctor. Much of the time, however, you have one of the most likely problems rather than the most serious outcomes. The Washington Post has a helpful article on the topic at 

It’s A Beautiful Day In Safetyville

Safetyville is in Los Angles aboard the L. A. Metro. As we all know, there are many potential hazards on and around subways and urban trains and too often, warning signs are simply ignored or overlooked. Not in L. A. PSA’s running now in Los Angles use stick figures to discuss basic rules and show the outcome if the rules are not followed. They are getting attention and might be worth considering when putting together a workplace rules package in your business. The Atlantic’s CityLab has done a good job of illustrating the PSA’s. See 

No Fireworks Please

For some reason, people young and old seem to love fireworks. I spent 20 years in the Navy and I know about real fireworks. They are powerful and destructive and very loud (I have hearing loss to prove it). I also know the amount of care that goes into handling naval projectiles. It’s serious business and that’s why I cringe at the idea of thousands of rank amateurs treating a variety of explosives (many of them illegal) as toys and playthings during the nights around every patriotic holiday.   When people play with explosives, people get hurt. See the graphic accompanying this story (courtesy of the Washington Post and the CPSC) to find out how many and when injuries occur.

Computer Vision Syndrome Growing Problem

Burning eyes. Chronic headaches. Musculoskeletal problems. Psychosocial stress. If you spend three or more hours a day looking at a computer screen and are aware of these symptoms, you may well be suffering from computer vision syndrome. And, studies show, 70 to 90% of people who use computers extensively for work or play will develop one or more of the symptoms. For more on the causes and some solutions, see the New York Times article on the topic at this link. 

Manslaughter Charge Filed Against Brooklyn Construction Company Owner

Salvatore Schirripa, 66, owner of J & M Metro General Contracting Corp, and Metrotech Development Corp. was arraigned in June before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on an eight-count indictment in which he and his companies are variously charged with second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, second-degree reckless endangerment, first-degree falsifying business records, offering a false instrument for filing, second-degree criminal possession of a false instrument, violation of the workers’ compensation law, and willful failure to pay contributions to the unemployment insurance fund. From all appearances, it appears that Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson is taking an aggressive stand against workplace safety violations, this one being just the latest in a series of indictments. The charges stem from the death of 50-year-old Vidal Sanchez-Ramon in a fall from an unprotected work area on the sixth floor of a building under construction. To read the account of this case, and related issues in the Brooklyn DA’s press release, click here. 

Sun Protection IS An OSHA Issue

Far too many employers don’t realize it, but environmental hazards such as sunburn, poison ivy rash, insect bites, heat exhaustion and dehydration that can significantly impact outdoor workers are hazards and risks that must be addressed. In addition, they must be addressed using the most effective methods. This then brings me to the issue of sunscreen. There are many sunscreens on the market that are ineffective or nearly useless and many employees (as well as family members) may not know how to select and use the best protection. The solution is for employers to do the research and then provide both the appropriate sunscreens and training on how to ensure effective use. Fortunately, all the answers to the most common sunscreen questions are contained in a helpful article published recently on Vox. You’ll find it at this link. 

Does The Automobile Make Sense In Today’s Environment?

“No!” says a recent article in The Atlantic’s CityLab. Why? They are terribly inefficient in their use of fuel. They take an average of ten years off the lives of the 53,000 people who die as a result of being exposed to their pollutants each year. From an investment standpoint, cars are a hugely underutilized asset. Perhaps most importantly, their use results in over 30,000 highway deaths annually. Compare that with the average of deaths in airplane crashes since 9/11—36 per year! There’s more to the argument against cars. You can read it by clicking here. 

Trees Sleep!

No kidding, science has found that trees sleep at night. The reason is not all that clear, but there is also evidence that all organisms follow a 24-hour circadian rhythm. How all this applies to occupational safety is also uncertain; but it does suggest to me that when we try to force changes to our circadian rhythms we are bucking nature. Read the Vox article here. 

All About Statistics

Where do we find workplace injury, illness and death statistics? The simple answer is that the folks at the CDC are hard at work generating the information. But, if you’d like to learn much more about statistics gathering and organization, a recent blog by a CDC epidemiologist has some good information and many links to data. You’ll find it by clicking here. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

New From OSHA—And Other News

Call Me Picky

I really enjoy reading my daily update from CityLab, a service of The Atlantic. Their short reports cover interesting research and observations published nowhere else, including several of interest to safety professionals that you’ll find referenced on this page. The report that starts this issue of the Digest deals with invasive pests and the huge impact they are having on U. S. trees. It’s information we all need to know. You’ll find the report here  Now, what makes me picky? Look at the opening photo in the article. See the guy with the chain saw? Gloves, chaps, vest—and a hard hat with hearing protection sitting six inches above his head covering a hood. The hood cancels most of the hearing protection and the hard hat might as well be a halo. And eye protection? No way! Pick—pick—pick!

In A Disaster, Do What You Know!

An excellent article from the Natural Hazards Center points to lessons we can learn from the film “The Martian” and the September 11 disaster in Manhattan. Often the advice for dealing with a disaster is to see the big picture. Good advice for those leading the operation, but for most of us, you need to do what you know. Quoting one line in the article—“We sometimes forget the value of improvisation done with expertise, vigilance, and the desire to achieve a shared vision.” Managing the disaster takes lots of people with many ideas using their own skills and bending the rules to make the right things happen. You’ll find the article at 

Tornado! Seek Shelter!

Tornados have been relentlessly attacking much of the central and eastern United States this Spring with a fury that seems to be increasing with global warming. My personal preference is to live in Upstate New York where tornados are rare and weak. Next would be a storm cellar, but the National Weather Service (NWS) says that any shelter is better odds than being in the open or a vehicle. To prove their point, NWS staffers in Norman, OK, responding to a tornado north of Sulphur, OK, found a young boy who sheltered in the bathroom in the middle of his house and got in the tub. You’ll find the resulting photo in the CityLab article located here. 

OSHA Issues New Rule Rule On Injury and Illness Reporting

Rules on workplace Injury and Illness Reporting have been changing regularly since the original rule was issued in 1971. Low hazard exemptions were added in 1982. A major rule change was issued in 2001 and the reporting of serious injuries and deaths was amended in 2013. Additional data surveys have been required through the OSHA Data Initiative and regular OSHA or BLS surveys. However, OSHA generally obtains industry-specific data from employers outside the occasional surveys when an establishment is being inspected. This new rule will change that.

Beginning January 1, 2017, establishments with 250 or more employees that are required to keep records under Part 1904 must submit all OSHA forms 300, 300A and 301 to OSHA electronically. For those with between 20 and 250 employees and that are part of an industry listed in Appendix A to subpart E, the same forms must be submitted. Employee names and identifiers should NOT be submitted.

For a copy of the rule (all 273 pages), the regulatory text, fact sheets, FAQs and more, go to the OSHA Final Rule web page at You’ll find the text of the rule toward the end.

Urban Green Space Fights Crime

A new body of evidence suggests that adding greenery in vacant or gray settings reduces criminal activity nearby. Essentially, the research shows, if you take care of trees, shrubs and lawns, people will care for the rest of the environment. To read the full CityLab article, click here. 

Air Pollution—An Environmental Disaster
I’ve spent much of my life dealing with a variety of disasters; but they all pale when stacked against the potential for disastrous outcomes from the growing problem of air pollution. Some recent research suggests that air pollution is (or will become) one of the top global risk factors linked to many diseases. Right now, the estimate is that 5.5 million people die annually world wide as a direct result of air pollution induced disease. To see a summary article on the topic from my friends at Firestorm, click here. 

Old Standards Buck Current Technology
Building too cold in the Summer? Blame old engineering standards and design codes that prevent the use of new technology. Streets too wide and over-built? Probably due to a 60-year-old understanding of the automobile and how it’s used. Water flowing from lawn sprinklers during a downpour? Look at the old electro/mechanical controllers. Not only are many practices wasteful, but they are often harmful to health and comfort and very expensive to operate. For an excellent discussion of how old defaults and standards are creating dysfunction by design in a Vox article, click here. 

Include Historic Sites In Your Disaster Plans
Not responsible for an historic site? It doesn’t matter. Historic sites are often critical to the health of the local economy and to the identity of the community. According to the American Planning Association, many states and local governments fail to plan for the impact of disasters on historic site and take steps to protect, mitigate and restore in the event of a disaster. What makes the topic more critical is rising sea levels, increasing weather extremes and predictions of massive earthquakes in the west. If you are responsible for an historic site, it’s time to get to work. If not, at least raise the question with governmental emergency planners to see if plans are in place. For an excellent article on this topic, see the CityLab piece at this link. 

Measure What Matters
I’ve long known that most organizations judge their safety success (or failure) on incidence rates. I cringe when I read about, or hear from, an executive who is apoplectic that his rate suddenly took a jump or throws a coffee and cake party when the rate drops a point. You’d think that business leaders would know how to measure success and failure, but many don’t. I could write on about this topic, but instead I’m going to refer you to an excellent article published late last year by You’ll find it here. 

Lawn Mowing Can Be High Hazard

Most of us do it. Mow lawns, that is, or we hire someone to do it. It’s such a common occurrence during growing season that many folks don’t give it a second thought—fire up the machine and get it done. But some times things go horribly wrong. Such was the case in the Spring of 2013 in North Carolina when a lawn care worker was struck in the head by a fragment from a pet tie-out stake that had been clipped by the commercial mower 25 feet away. He died from his injuries. Careless? Not really. The crew was experienced. Protective equipment was being worn. The lawn was walked by the crew before work began to check for debris. They just didn’t see the stake. This incident generated a NIOSH FACE report (#2013-04) that is detailed and contains multiple safety actions that both lawn pros and homeowners will find helpful. Click here for the report.