Posts Tagged ‘training’

Firefighter safety: tactics over traditions to reduce fatalities

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

Preliminary reports for 2012 show that there were 82 firefighter fatalities, the fourth consecutive year in which fatalities were 91 or under, in contrast with the decade prior when fatalities were all in triple digits. And in one of those years, 2007, 9 firefighter deaths occurred on June 18 in a warehouse in Charleston, South Carolina.
The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation has recently released a documentary on that fire, which looks at the dramatic changes made in the operations of Charleston’s Fire Department following those deaths.

It’s good to hear the courage of this department at looking at and embracing the changes that needed to be made to heighten firefighter safety. Related to the idea of challenging traditional ways of doing things to improve safety, read how flashover research could change the future of firefighting tactics. A recent series of tests were conducted Spartanburg, SC to study various suppression methods for ventilating and isolating fires to prevent — or at least delay — flashover. The research shows that by “listening to the fires,” certain traditional firefighting tactics have come under scrutiny. In addition to homes being constructed closer together, they include more plastic and chemical elements, allowing fires to spread more rapidly. On the other hand, advances in windows and doors help to create ventilation-limited fires. This may mean more water on the fire sooner and waiting to open doors or windows to enter the building until a strategy is deployed. Even the old shibboleth about not using water on smoke is coming under scrutiny.
Article author Shane Ray says:

“Experienced company officers and instructors should examine the latest research, textbooks, and NIOSH firefighter-fatality and near-miss reports. Does the fire service operate and function the way it does — especially on single-family, detached dwellings — because it produces the best outcomes or because of anecdotal procedures and processes from the past? Fire officers can make a difference by improving tactical decision-making and training new firefighters and upcoming fire officers to think about their actions based on the knowledge they have, not just the skills and abilities. Ask the tough questions and embrace the answers.”

More resources on firefighter safety:
Everyone Goes Home
Fire Chief – Health & Safety

Training Employers: How To Reach The Other 80%

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

Last week, published a blog post by John D’Alusio entitled, “The Responsibility of Policyholder Education.” In it, Mr. D’Alusio talks about a friend’s troubling, frustrating and painful experience after a work injury, a torn finger tendon. The friend works for a self-insured Florida city whose claims are managed by an unnamed TPA. According to Mr. D’Alusio’s friend, the TPA, slow off the mark, delayed necessary treatment, dueling physicians traded opinions (slowly) and the employer, the city, was uninvolved, uneducated and unhelpful. In a word, clueless.
Mr. D’Alusio’s overarching question in all of this is, “Who’s responsible for educating the employer and employee about the workers comp system?” In other words, who is responsible for teaching workers comp best practices to employers who are all legally required to comply with workers comp statutes?
Here at Workers Comp Insider, we don’t usually talk about ourselves, but Mr. D’Alusio’s question prompts me to step outside that box for a moment, because his question is the same one I faced nearly 30 years ago.
I was an entrepreneur looking to start a business, and friends in the insurance industry suggested looking at workers comp, because costs around the country were raging like a California wildfire, and nobody seemed to have any answers that worked.
Knowing nothing about the subject, I at least had fresh eyes. And what I saw was that, even though workers comp insurers, agents, TPAs, et al, claimed to provide employer education, no one was actually doing it. The only thing employers knew about workers comp was that they had to buy it, and if employees were injured, the insurer was supposed to take care of it. Employers lived in a workers comp wasteland.
That insight was why we created Lynch Ryan with the mission to educate employers that the workplace is the best place to control and manage workers compensation. We were successful in that, and we grew into a substantial and influential management consulting company, and in 1991 Travelers Insurance made us an offer we couldn’t refuse, because they needed help. Heady stuff.
Yet, today, while large, enterprise organizations (many of them our clients), have sophisticated systems in place, systems that start with an unrelenting focus on safety, that provide immediate and excellent care for injured workers when safety fails, that return them to meaningful transitional work along a programmed path back to full duty, and that, consequently, keep costs to an absolute minimum, the other 80% of American business does not have the resources or the training to do the same, as Mr. D’Alusio’s Florida example illustrates. Why? Because traditional training is expensive, and a $7,000 premium (add a zero, if you’d like) doesn’t justify it, so everything is always unplanned and reactive. Moreover, many insurers, TPAs and agents have neither the time nor the inclination to provide meaningful training for the folks who pay the bills.
So, I’m back to my 30-year old question. We have millions of employers in America, call them all students. Who teaches, and how do they do it?
The answer? Technology and eLearning. That’s our new sandbox. What’s yours?
If you’d like to see what we’re doing, here’s a 1-minute tease. Contact Lynch Ryan if you’d like to know more – email me directly or connect with me on LinkedIn.

What’s the Real Workers’ Comp “Secret Sauce?”

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

“An educated consumer is our best customer.” – Sy Simms (a really smart retailer)

In the mid-1980s and early 1990s, our nation was in the midst of an awful workers’ compensation crisis. In my home state of Massachusetts, the cost of workers’ comp was approaching $2 billion dollars annually. Employers were looking for straws to grasp. Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the leading employer organization in the state, held quarterly seminars in large hotel ballrooms and filled them every time with CEOs, CFOs and HR VPs, all wanting to know what they could do to stem the tide.

Often, I was a keynote speaker. Why? Because my company, Lynch Ryan, had figured out that even though, as Peter Rousmaniere, my CFO at the time, put it, the crisis was “a horrendoma of the first order,” employers who were committed and driven to reduce their costs could do so if they instituted real, systemic programs with roles, responsibilities and accountability throughout the organization. These employers learned that time was their enemy and that when safety failed and injury resulted, they needed an urgent sense of immediacy to take hold of the injured person and keep him or her as close as possible to the bosom of the workplace. They didn’t just report the injury to their carriers and return to business as usual.

Relative to their peers — their competition — these employers shone like bright stars in the clear night sky.

In 1992, Massachusetts enacted far-reaching legislation to significantly improve what had become a woebegotten state system. This reform legislation produced results that still echo today as Massachusetts continues to have among the very lowest costs in the nation, but among the highest benefits. The big national bugaboo, medical costs, are about 40% of the total spend, as opposed to around 60% nationally. The $2 billion has shrunk to around $600 million.

Yet, even now, employers who treat workers compensation as they would treat any other important business function (time to repeat – with written documentation, roles, responsibilities and accountability established throughout) still outperform their competitors. I’ve worked with many of them who managed workers’ comp well and were proud of the results they’d achieved.

And that, to me, remains the secret sauce.

Yes, the Great Recession has caused terrible damage to the nation and, by extension, to the workers compensation system. Yes, the combined ratio is unsustainable (and may be understated). Yes, we’re in the middle of an epidemic of opioid abuse, enabled, for the most part, by doctors who long ago forgot their Hippocratic Oath and who now bow to Gordon Gecko. And, yes, workers’ comp, especially with respect to medical claims management, has gotten much more complicated over the years (and the Medicare Secondary Payer Statute hasn’t helped). But in the midst of all this, you will still find employers who are so serious about safety and injury management, that their workers’ compensation costs, relative to their peers, give them a significant competitive advantage. All things being equal, their boats are in a safe harbor, waiting to sail when the storm lifts.

In many cases, these employers who “got religion” long ago are large organizations, at least upper middle market. They have the resources to institute systemic programs. But what about the other 80% of American businesses? These companies need help. How do we bring them the education they sorely need to weather the market vagaries?

I think that’s the bull’s eye challenge.

Homicidal Employers

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Back in May, we blogged the appalling story of Albania Deleon, a legal immigrant who founded Environmental Compliance Training (ECT), the largest asbestos removal training school in New England. Despite the fact that the training only requires 32 hours, she frequently sold certificates of completion to “students” who never attended classes. In other words, she sent these marginal workers – many of them undocumented – into asbestos-ridden jobsites with no preparation whatsoever.
Well, Albania, meet Chong-mun Chae, an illegal immigrant who ran a Queens-based asbestos removal company apparently modeled on ECT standards. Chae claimed to have only one employee, a receptionist. In other words, his company removed asbestos from job sites all over New York, but he accomplished this without any workers. By calling his workforce “independent contractors,” he avoided workers comp premiums to the tune of $1.6 million. As we read in the New York Times, Chae has been sentenced to 4 years in prison, to be followed by deportation to South Korea.
Chae avoided detection for over a decade by frequently changing the name of the company. He was not without a sense of humor – let’s call it diabolical – as one of his company’s incarnations was “Charlie Brown Services.” His premium avoidance scheme was exposed when an investigator read a report filed by Chae stating that he had no workers. You might think that a connection would easily be made between a company with hundreds of thousands in billings and no payroll, but that was not the case. In our collective haste to get rid of asbestos, we try not to think very much about the people actually performing the work.
Killer Jobs
Chae, like Albania Deleon, is getting off lightly. After all, he has only been convicted of insurance fraud. At some point in the not-too-distant future, when Chae is enjoying his retirement in South Korea, he will be guilty of murder, as his phantom workforce and their families succomb to debilitating lung disease. We don’t know who they are or where they live. Collectively, perhaps we don’t really care.
Entrepreneurs like Chae and Deleon exploit the margins of the working world, removing a deadly menace in a deadly manner. They offer jobs that pay relatively well, to a workforce that labors in the shadows. Chae and Deleon are nothing less than murderers. It’s too bad that our system of justice is incapable of holding them accountable for their deeds.
If hell operated a dating service, surely the decrepid Chae and the fugitive Deleon would be a match: at 71, he is a lot older, where Deleon is a single mother with a now-abandoned 3 year old child. Despite the difference in ages, however, they have a lot in common. They have ruined hundreds of lives, wreaked havoc on thousands of families and reaped the profits of a corrupt business scheme. With values like those, age is surely no barrier.

Making Safety a Universal Language

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

The following article is a guest post by Joey Lucia, a loss prevention supervisor at Austin-based Texas Mutual Insurance Co., the largest provider of workers’ compensation insurance in Texas.
Non-English-speaking Hispanic workers present unique safety challenges.
Picture this: It’s your first day on the job with a construction crew. Your boss asks you to help lay a foundation for an office building. High above, another worker is walking along a scaffold. He accidentally kicks a hammer off the scaffold, and you’re directly below it.
Fortunately, your company embraces a “total safety” culture. In a “total safety” culture, employees look out for one other. Everyone is accountable for not only their own safety but also their co-workers’ safety.
With that in mind, someone yells, “¡Cuidado, el martillo se puede cáer sobre ti!” Your co-worker warned you to get out of the way. If you didn’t understand Spanish, you might have been involved in a serious accident.
In 2006, Hispanic workers died at a rate that was 25 percent higher than all other workers in the United States, according to a study published last year in Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report. As of 2006, nearly 20 million workers in this country were Hispanic, making them one of the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. workforce.
Here are some tips for keeping non-English-speaking Hispanic workers safe. Follow the ones that fit your business, and you can help make your workplace safer and more productive.
Challenge: language
Language can be a barrier to communication, even among people who speak the same language. Imagine how hard it is for Hispanic workers who speak little or no English.

  • Use more pictures and fewer words to point out hazards and teach safety procedures.
  • Most communication is nonverbal. Watch workers’ eyes, body language and expressions to see whether they understand instructions.
  • Train supervisors in basic, conversational Spanish. Send non-English-speaking Hispanic workers to a conversational English class. Focus on commonly used words in your industry.
  • Hire Spanish-speaking supervisors who have experience in your industry.
  • Ask bilingual employees to translate safety messages.
  • If you have training requirements, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration mandates that you provide them in a language that workers can understand. Hire a translation company to put safety training material into Spanish. Make sure the translator is fluent in the Spanish dialects spoken by your employees.

Challenge: literacy
Many Hispanic workers do not have the luxury of pursuing their education because they have to help support their families. About 40 percent of Hispanics age 25 and up do not have a high school diploma, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By comparison, about 14 percent of the total U.S. population does not have a high school diploma.

  • Keep training basic.
  • Provide simple, hands-on safety demonstrations.
  • Do not let employees start work until they show that they understand the training.
  • Provide follow-up training, and be sure to address new workplace hazards.

Challenge: fear
Have you ever been afraid of asking a question in front of a large group of people? Imagine asking it in a different language. Non-English-speaking Hispanic workers may put themselves at risk because they’re too embarrassed to ask questions about safety procedures. Some may even fear for their jobs if they report unsafe working conditions.

  • Encourage every employee to report unsafe conditions.
  • Offer safety training away from the workplace. If the trainer is someone other than a manager, employees may be less intimidated and more likely to ask questions.
  • Make sure non-English-speaking Hispanic workers have peers they feel comfortable talking to.
  • Deliver the safety message to employees in their environment. For example, distribute Spanish-language safety training material at community functions.
  • Reward safe behavior in front of co-workers.
  • Take time to learn about your Hispanic workers and their culture.

Past blog posts that relate to this topic:
Safety for Spanish-speaking workers must address cultural as well as language barriers
Keeping the multicultural workforce safe
Qualified interpreters can save lives
Hispanic Fatalities on the job: the Tip of the Iceberg
When it comes to safety, make sure you speak the same language!
Mandatory English at the workplace?

New Health Wonk Review; other news notes

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

If you find the task of following breaking news developments on the health care reform front a trifle daunting, we have a solution: let the health policy blogosphere’s best braniacs dish up and dissect the news for you in bite size portions in the bi-weekly compendium of the best of heath care policy posts. Check out the fresh edition of Health Wonk Review: Crunch Time For Health Reform hosted by Ken Terry at BNET Healthcare Blog.
And in other news:
MHSAThe Pump Handle tells us that Joe Main has been nominated for Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health and posts some info on his background.
Taking the industry economic pulse – With another quarter in the year under our belt, several industry watchers have taken the pulse of the industry’s health. In Business Insurance, Roberto Ceniceros reports that a tough climate is shaping up for workers comp. Among the many problems he notes, he reports that sources have told him that “…rising bankruptcies have insurers concerned that defunct businesses may not pay all their premiums and leave their insurer stuck with claims that should have been paid by the company.” Risk and Insurance features an article on a report from Fitch Ratings which discusses the challenges that the workers compensation market is facing in 2009. According to the report, underwriting performance is expected to worsen in 2009 as rate reductions persist. And we’ve recently noted grim news in the industry at large: first quarter of 2009 was the worst on record for property casualty insurers since quarterly results were first compiled in 1986.
Training – Eric at The Safety Blog reports that OSHA is targeting fraudulent trainers in construction and general industries and is working to strengthen their trainer authorization program. They will be conducting more surprise visits to independent training centers to check for compliance with program requirements. Trainers are authorized to teach and to do outreach training only after completion of a one-week course in an OSHA Training Institute Education Center. Learn more about training certifcation: OSHA Outreach Training Program.
H1N1Lloyd’s warns that pandemics continue to pose a threat to companies – Many feel the flu publicity and warnings earlier in the year were overstated because up until now, the manifestations of the flu have been very mild. According to WHO, there have been 429 fatalities out of 95,412 cases. Yet Lloyd’s points out that it has been having a devastating economic impact on some businesses and notes that, “Up to now flu cases have been relatively mild; however, Lloyd’s warned that “health officials worry that swine flu could mutate during the southern hemisphere winter and return in a more virulent form in the northern hemisphere this winter.” Keep up to date on any developments at
Waste treatment fatalities – More on last week’s three fatalities at Regal Recycling: Old Story in Waste Removal: A Worker Collapses, Then Rescuers Do: “Dr. Hendrickson and two co-researchers found that in 42 incidences of workers’ dying of hydrogen sulfide toxicity between 1993 and 1997, more than one-fifth involved multiple deaths, including co-workers killed while trying to rescue a colleague. In all, 52 workers died over that period. The deaths have mounted despite strict standards governing work in confined spaces set by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.”
And in another waste treatment plant, a worker recently died of burns suffered in an explosion that occurred while he was cleaning a tanker at CES Environmental Services in Houston. The death was the third at a regional CES operation since December, unleashing criticism from area residents, activists and city officials, who are looking to shut down the plant.
Useful Twitter feeds
@govsites – A searchable directory of any nation’s Government sites on Twitter
@NIOSH – The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
@usdol – Jobs, employment, workforce, safety, labor, government 2.0 issues & regulations news and information from the US Department of Labor
@Disabilitygov – Official U.S. Government Web site for People with Disabilities
@CCOHS – Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS)
@FluGov – One-stop access to U.S. Government H1N1, avian and pandemic flu information
@VHAVeterans – Veterans Health Administration in the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs
@usfire – Official Twitter account of the U.S. Fire Administration – Working for a Fire-Safe America

Vintage safety clips – women in the workplace

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

In searching for some safety videos, we chanced upon these vintage clips about workplace safety for women and supervising women, which we pass along for your amusement and elucidation. We’re happy to note that in the ensuing years, there have been significant advances for both women and for safety!

The Trouble With Women (1959)

Albania Deleon: Death in the Classroom

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Albania Deleon is a entrepreneur. A legal immigrant and naturalized citizen from the Dominican Republic, she founded and operated Environmental Compliance Training (ECT) in Methuen, Massachusetts, the largest asbestos removal training school in New England. Between 2001 and 2007, she trained over 2,500 people in the intricacies of asbestos removal. Except that she didn’t. Instead, she would fill out tests for certificate applicants and enter a passing grade. For $400, the (usually undocumented) worker was handed a certificate and then placed in a job through Deleon’s other enterprise, Methuen Abatement Staffing. Her temporary workers handled hazardous abatement jobs throughout New England. (You can read the sorry details in a fine article by Beth Daley of the Boston Globe here.)
By the way, the training involves a total of 32 hours – not much of an investment in a life or death matter. (Some ECT students paid $350 and actually completed the training; for an additional 50 bucks, you could skip the training, pocket the certificate and get right to work, earning upwards of $15 per hour.)
ECT “graduates” went in to hundreds of schools, hospitals, churches, libraries, and homes throughout New England to remove asbestos. Most of them had no idea what they were supposed to do. Now there is deep concern that the workers, mostly young men from Central America, breathed the fibers, which can lodge in the lungs and lead to death decades later. Most had no idea how to properly wear a respirator.
In addition to their own exposure, these workers may have exposed their families to the cancer risk. Asbestos workers, if not properly trained, can inadvertently carry the fibers home on their clothes or hair.
More than a third of the 12,750 asbestos worker licenses and renewals issued in Massachusetts between 2002 and 2007 went to ECT “graduates.” In New Hampshire, it was more than two-thirds.
Crocodile Tears
In November 2008 Deleon was convicted on 28 felony counts. Shortly before her sentencing, she wrote a rambling, hand-written letter to the sentencing judge. Among other things, she wrote:
“I pray that God will forgive my soul and allow me to atone the rest of my life repaying and repairing the harm I have done. This is my solemn promise…I commit myself to work ceacelessly [sic] to make restitution to the government and to the keeper of my soul until I draw my last breath life (sic).”
The reference to “last breath” is especially ironic, given that many of her “students” – along with innocent family members – will suffer excruciatingly painful deaths, as their breathing slowly and inexorably shuts down.
Facing more than 7 years in prison, Deleon skipped town. There is a warrant out for her arrest. Oh, she abandoned her 3 year old son in the process. Alas, it appears that “the keeper of her soul” doesn’t have a whole lot to work with…

Health & Safety resource roundup

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Cleaning out our bookmark files, we came upon an assortment of health and safety resources that we thought we’d pass along.

Free Web seminars: Standard/Universal Precautions and Communicating with Spanish Speaking Employees

Monday, May 14th, 2007

We’ve learned about a few free seminars that we thought we would pass along to you. We don’t have any connection with either of these groups, but they are both sponsored by reputable organizations and sound interesting.
Standard/Universal Precautions: Compliance, Beliefs, and Barriers – Wednesday, May 16
The North Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Education and Research Center is sponsoring a free NORA Interdisciplinary webcast on Wednesday, May 16 from 1:00 – 2:30 pm EST. Kathy Kirkland, Executive Director, Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics in Washington, DC, will present “Standard/Universal Precautions: Compliance, Beliefs, and Barriers.” The seminar can be viewed live via webcast, or an archive link will be available a few days after May 16 for viewing at your convenience.
Access the seminar here at 1 pm EST on May 16, and log in as a guest. Type in your first and last name and click the “Enter” button to launch the OSHERC meeting space. You may need to download the meeting plug-in (Flashplayer). There will be an interactive question and answer session. Slides and an evaluation form are available.
The seminar topic has been approved for 1.5 contact hours or 0.15 CEUs through the University of North Carolina. To receive the CE credit, you must complete a registration form (hard copy available only) and send a $4.00 check payable to *Friday Center for Continuing Education* to Susan Randolph by *May 25, 2007*; you must also complete an evaluation form after the seminar.
More info: Susan A. Randolph, FAAOHN Clinical Instructor Occupational Health Nursing Program University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 1700 Airport Road, CB #7502 Room #337 Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7502 – Phone: 919-966-0979
Improving Communication with Spanish Speaking Employees – May 24
Benefits Management Online Forum & Expo is sponsoring this free online forum on Thursday May 24 at 2:00pm EST. Register for attendance here
The notice for this forum states:
If you are an employer with Spanish-speaking employees, an HR director responsible for the success of Spanish-speaking teammates, or a benefits specialist who must communicate plans to Spanish-speakers, this online forum is for you.
Spend an hour with Melissa Burkhart, founder and president of the consulting firm Futuro Solido USA, as she shows why developing Spanish straight talk es muy importante. Melissa will explain the different workplace behaviors and values held by English-speaking and Spanish-speaking workers and reveal the secrets to successful trouble-shooting and team-building with Spanish-speaking employees.
In this presentation, you will learn about:
* Culturally rooted beliefs
* Common pitfalls and employer frustrations
* Strategic solutions for optimizing communication and building more effective teams