Weblog roundup: Fishing safety, hearing loss, BP disaster & more

May 21st, 2005 by Julie Ferguson

Fishing Safety
Strategic HR Lawyer points us to Dangers of the Deep, an article in which Alex Markel of USNews.com recounts the sad story of last December’s sinking of the Northern Edge, a scallop boat fishing in the waters off Nantucket. Five fishermen drowned and one survived. The article discusses attempts to impose safety standards on the industry.
“Fishermen are a famously independent bunch, and they have long resisted the sort of safety regulations that are compulsory in other workplaces. Against their opposition, the first and only law aimed at improving the industry’s safety record was passed by Congress in 1988. The Commercial Fishing Industry Vessel Safety Act requires boats to carry life rafts, survival suits, and emergency beacons in the event of an accident–steps that Coast Guard officials say have since helped lower the number of annual fatalities.”
Carbon monoxide, noise tied to hearing loss
RawblogXport points us to a story in The Vancouver Sun that reports on a study showing that the presence of carbon monoxide can intensify hearing damage when coupled with high noise levels.
“They found that workers who were exposed to carbon monoxide and noise levels over 90 decibels (comparable to the noise produced by a chainsaw) displayed significantly poorer hearing thresholds at high frequencies than workers who were exposed to noise levels alone.
The reason, Leroux said, is that the human ear needs oxygen to translate sounds into electrical impulses, which are then transmitted to the brain. Cells in the blood carry the oxygen to the ears, and the louder the noise, the more oxygen is required.
But the presence of carbon monoxide, he said, results in decreased levels of oxygen, which means blood cells carrying oxygen to the ear have to work that much harder if the person is going to hear properly.”

Failure to get to the root cause: BP blames employees for fatal blasts
Jordan Barab at Confined Space discusses the tendency to blame the worker for industrial accidents, as again evidenced in a recent interim report about the BP tragedy. He analyzes the BP report and recent news coverage of the report, pointing out that in this case as in most others, scapegoating doesn’t get to the root cause of an accident, the one that will truly help to prevent future deaths.
“The fact is that human beings inevitably make errors and errors by operators must be expected. But rather than focusing on the operators who make the errors, effective accident analysis – analysis that actually wants to get to the root causes and effective solutions — looks for the conditions which made the errors possible.
These errors can be rooted in poor design, gaps in supervision, undetected manufacturing defect or maintenance failures, unworkable procedures, shortfalls in training, less than adequate tools and equipment. In addition, these conditions can be present for many years before they combine to result in a tragic incident. In fact, BP made the point that they had been operating with questionable equipment for many years with no problem.”

Jordan’s post on the matter is well worth a read – as per his usual thorough style, he discusses the topic in depth as it relates to the BP incident and other work disasters, and he provides links to several other posts he’s made on the same topic.
Belated congratulations to George and Michael at the ever-excellent George’s Employment Blawg on passing the two year mark of blogging. They cover a fascinating and instructive array of legal and human resource issues ranging from tattoos in the workplace to employment at will. Here’s to many more years ahead!
Other items of interest
Judge Robert Vondada of Pennsylvania Workers Compensation Journal posts on artificial spinal disks and a recent ruling about a claimant that prevailed in a case involving the costs of litigation.
Joe Paduda at Managed Care Matters discusses the worsening problems for AIG.