Posts Tagged ‘safety’

100 Years of Workers Comp

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

vintage photo of ambulance and injured worker
We’re happy to bring you this 12-minute, must-watch video commemorating the 100th Anniversary of Workers Comp. The video highlights progress in worker safety, treatment of injured workers and risk management in the past 100 years. In addition to telling the history of comp, it also features three visionary women who were instrumental in furthering health and safety of workers…one of whom witnessed the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. Until this clip, I did not realize the strong role that women played in this history.
Kudos go to Sedgwick as well as to our colleague and friend Peter Rousmaniere. who wrote the script.
Here’s some additional information about the women highlighted in the video clip:
Crystal Eastman
Frances Perkins
Alice Hamilton MD

A Window Into Fraud

Monday, February 13th, 2012

A couple of years ago we blogged the performance incentive program at Smurfit-Stone Container Corporation in California. The performance numbers were stellar, but not necessarily because the work was performed safely. Instead, the company conspired with local medical providers to secure limited treatment outside of the workers comp system. Two supervisors pled no contest in conspiring to deny comp benefits to injured workers.
With the recent conviction of chiropractor Robert Schreiner, we see into the black box of the conspiracy. Workers complaining of work-related problems were referred to doctors like Schreiner – giving rise, alas, to a new and ominous definition of provider network. In one instance a worker complained about a neck and shoulder injury. Schreiner denied that the problem was work related, saying that it was caused by carrying a back pack as a child. He provided a handful of treatments and then encouraged the worker to file the claim under his health plan to continue treatments. When the worker persisted and filed a comp claim, he was fired.
Schreiner is headed to jail to serve a mostly symbolic sentence of 30 days, to be followed by three years of probation. Perhaps he can provide some adjustments to his fellow inmates. Confined spaces sure can mess up the spine.
Faking Safety
Smurfit-Stone was bought out last year by RockTenn. You can still read about the company in Wikipedia. Here is the (unattributed) description of the company’s safety program:

Smurfit-Stone has been an industry leader in safety performance since 2001 [NOTE: the conspiracy to under-report claims began in 1999!]. In 2007, Smurfit-Stone’s U.S. operations had an OSHA recordable case rate of 1.05, the best in company and industry history. This represents an 84 percent improvement in the company’s recordable case rate since the implementation of Smurfit-Stone’s SAFE process in 1995.The SAFE process, which stands for Smurfit-Stone Accident-Free Environment, promotes five core beliefs:
1.All injuries are preventable
2.Safety is everyone’s responsibility
3.Working safely is a condition of employment
4.Training employees to work safely is essential
5.Safety is good business

As litigation has proven, Smurfit-Stone’s low OSHA case rate has less to do with safety than with a conspiracy to under-report claims. Perhaps the SAFE program stood for something else: Screw All Forsaken Employees. Aggressive safety goals are a good business practice; circumventing the workers comp system is not just a bad practice, it’s illegal. Just ask Robert Schreiber.

Highest injury rate POP quiz: construction, manufacturing, mining, or nursing homes?

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Pop quiz:
Match the Injury Incident Rate per 100 Full Time Equivalents (#1 through #4) with the industry (A, B, C, D)
1. 8.6
2. 5.6
3. 4.8
4. 3.5
A. building construction
B. coal mines, underground workers
C. nursing home workers
D. tire manufacturing workers
Answers: 1-C, 2-B, 3-D, 4-A
Yes, you read that right. Nursing home workers are at higher risk of injury than underground coal miners, construction workers, and tire manufacturers. And the picture is pretty much the same when you talk about serious injuries that result in lost time. “The lost-time/ restricted duty injury case rate for nursing home workers is 5.6 per 100 FTEs, compared to 3.7, 3.3 and 1.7 for these same sub-industries, respectively.”
At The Pump Handle, Celeste Monforton posts about new data that reveals that nursing home workers face an extraordinarily high rate of on-the-job injuries.
Of the 16 million US workers employed in health care and social assistance, more than 3 million are employed in US nursing and residential care facilities. In comparison, Monforton notes that about 17.1 million people were employed in manufacturing and construction. OSHA focused approximately 78% of its inspections on these two industries, and less than 2% on healthcare workers. She notes that there are different standards or triggers to prompt inspections in these industries. “Manufacturing plants on the targeting list, for example, aren’t selected for a possible inspection unless their DART rate* is 7.0 per 100 FTEs or greater. Nursing homes in contrast, have to have a DART rate of 16 per 100 FTEs or greater to “make the cut” for a possible inspection.
*DART: days away from work, restricted-duty or transfer to a different job
Related
NCCI study on safe lifting programs for long-term care facilities

Celebrating a century of safety with ASSE

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Kudos to the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), whose 32,000 members will be celebrating the organization’s 100 year mark during the annual North American Occupational Health & safety Week (or NAOSH week, for short), which runs from May 1 to May 7. Annually, ASSE teams up with the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering (CSSE) in the first week of May to raise public awareness about safety.
Here’s a few of the resources that are available
NAOSH Week Toolkit
Safety Through the Decades chart
May 4 – Occupational Health and Safety Professional Day
ASSE’s 100th Anniversary

ASSE’s 100th Anniversary from jon schwerman on Vimeo.

Cool work safety tool from WorkSafeBC – “What’s wrong with this photo?”

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Remember playing those “what’s wrong with this picture” games in activity books when you were a kid? Well WorkSafe BC has adapted the concept as a safety tool. Every issue of WorkSafe Magazine includes a photo that has been staged to show at least six hazards or dangerous work habits – you can interact with the photo to position pushpins on identified hazards, describe the hazards, and then submit your response to WorkSafeBC for a possible prize (although it’s likely that only B.C. residents are eligible). In each issue, they include the winning entry from the last issue, along with responses from other readers. Neat.
One of the really cool and useful things is that they keep an archive of all past photos online – you can either take the challenge online and then check the answer key, or you can print the photos and the answer keys and use them in safety meetings or toolbox talks.
Here’s one example: Can you spot the safety hazards in this commercial kitchen? Note: the image below is only a sample pic – the online interactive version is accessible at Kitchen Safety and here’s the commercial kitchen answer key to check your responses.
WorkSafeBC
Archived “What’s wrong with this photo” tools
There’s a pretty good array of work scenarios representing a variety of industries. Here are direct links to each:

Are events in Wisconsin part of a union busting initiative?

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Later this month, we will mark the 100 year anniversary of New York’s horrific Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, an event that claimed the lives of 146 garment workers – young girls and women – who had been locked in the sweatshop to prevent theft. Most died in stairwells, jumping down the single elevator shaft, or by hurtling themselves from 9th story windows in desperate attempts to escape the fire. PBS recently ran a special on this disaster. (If you missed it, you can watch online: Triangle Fire). My colleague Jon Coppelman has also written about the fire in his post The Original “No Exit”.
This fire was a watershed event that galvanized the nation. It occurred in an era where there were no regulations or labor protections. Workers often worked 12 hour shifts, 7 days a week. There were no child labor laws or safety mandates. Ironically, the day before the Triangle Fire, New York courts had struck down the state’s first compulsory workers compensation law as unconstitutional.
This tragedy, along with some of the horrific mine disasters that resulted in wholesale loss of life, were catalysts which led to the enactment of various worker protections – including statutory workers’ compensation.
Meanwhile, today in Wisconsin …
We think this bit of history is an important backdrop to what’s going on in Wisconsin today.
Wisconsin has the distinction of being the first state in the union to have enacted a workers’ compensation law that survived legal challenge in May of 1911. In fact, the state of Wisconsin has a long, storied and sometimes bloody history of being on the front lines for worker rights. Workers and labor unions were in the forefront of the fight for the 8-hour day and the 40-hour work week. In 1932, Wisconsin was the first state to enact unemployment compensation.
To any who know this history, it comes as no surprise that, once again, Wisconsin is on the front lines in the battle for labor’s future.
It’s the budget, stupid – or is it?
The ostensible issue, according to Governor Walker, is that the state of Wisconsin is broke and a large part of the problem lies with overly generous benefit packages of public workers – teachers, prison guards and the like – which are said to be crippling the state. He called on unions to do their part and to make a sacrifice for the greater good.
All that might be well and good. The unions have indicated their willingness to take a financial haircut. But the part of Governor Walker’s Budget Repair Bill that is going over somewhat less well is a call for the elimination of collective bargaining — and therein lies the rub.
With a Republican majority in Wisconsin’s House and Senate, the bill was all but a given until the Democratic senate contingent fled the state to prevent a vote. Since that time, there have been massive protests over three weeks and the so-called Fab 14 remain holed up in un-named Illinois’ hotels. And there has been no shortage of drama in this story: an embarrassing and revelatory 20-minute prank call to Governor Walker from an impersonator of corporate financier David Koch; and a sheriff’s refusal to play the role of “palace guard”, among other things.
Part of national union busting agenda?
Critics of Walker’s Budget Repair Bill say that the issue is not about budget balancing or overly generous benefits, but an ideological push to eliminate or curtail public unions – in a phrase, union busting. Opponents say that this is a corporate-funded campaign to eliminate public unions in Wisconsin and other states, and to privatize many institutions that are currently staffed by public workers. No less a staunch Republican than former Congressman and now host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program, Joe Scarborough, has publicly called Governor Walker’s actions, “Un-American.”
In Wisconsin, suspicions are high because Koch enterprises funded a large part of Walkers gubernatorial campaign. The fact that the budget bill contains a provision authorizing Walker to conduct no-bid sales of some state properties also heightens suspicion. Many are troubled by his plans for privatization of some public services. In his prior role as Milwaukee County Executive, Walker also used budget emergency as a justification for privatizing security guards, a move that proved less than successful.
Other states have also embarked on this path: Ohio may be making more headway in curtailing unions. In Indiana, Democratic legislators have followed Wisconsin’s lead and left the state to postpone a vote. In Rhode Island, nearly 2000 teachers have been dismissed. Other states may be contemplating similar measures, although some may be a bit shy of action given the shifting public sentiment, which favors retention of collective bargaining and has given Walker a black eye – to a point where voters say they would not elect him again if they had a do-over. (see Wisconsin Public Research, Rasmussen, USA Today/Gallup, Public Policy Polling and various other polls. )
It’s uncertain what will happen in the next chapters, but we will be watching. It is clear this is another watershed point in labor history, a public policy fork in the road, perhaps the beginning of the end of the movement that was propelled into mainstream America by that terrible fire 100 years ago. While polling indicates that sentiment is currently on the side of the teachers in this dispute, the future of public unions is under serious threat. Is the role of unions obsolete? Has the public dialogue achieved an equilibrium between the rights of workers and those of management?
At Lynch Ryan, we have great respect for unions, which have historically played a critical check-and-balance role in labor-management power dynamics. They have also been in the forefront of the fight for worker safety and other worker protections. We also admire and respect many employers we have been privileged to work for who are perceptive and wise enough to manage their companies so well that unions are not needed. We’d like to say that all employers are this enlightened and do not need union checks and balances to do the right thing, but unfortunately our experience tells us that this is not always the case.

Low clearance: truckers, this one is for you

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011


A website called 11foot8 videos chronicles “the good, the bad and the ugly” of low clearance truck accidents at a single Durham NC trestle bridge. While one might think this is the purview of inexperienced drivers and rental trucks, the videos don’t lie: professionals have had their share of accidents, too.
When professionals make a mistake, the results can turn deadly. In September, four people were killed when a bus crashed into a railroad bridge in Syracuse after deviating from the normal route. And even non-fatal incidents wreak havoc in terms of injuries, property losses, hazards to pedestrians and other drivers, and costly traffic tie ups. Here are photos of four serious nonfatal truck and bridge collisions
Prevention tips
Prevention might seem obvious to some, but approximately 5,000 bridge-truck collisions per year say otherwise. Here are some pointers we gleaned from the pros:

  • Plan route in advance and stay on route
  • Check atlas and or gps systems in advance
  • Keep atlases and gps systems up to date
  • Check with any state or major city DOTs (examples: NYC; TX); they often provide good information about the local area
  • Be religious about watching for and heeding signage
  • If on an unfamiliar route, check with other drivers about hazards
  • Talk to shippers and receivers on your route about nearby low clearance
  • When in doubt, don’t risk it

Additional Resources
America’s Independent Truckers Association (AITA) offers an online database of low clearance bridges with heights broken down by state.
For situations that might require escorts, AITA maintains a truck escort referral listing
This trucker forum discusses low clearance solutions.

Another sad chapter in the “no exit” chronicles

Monday, December 20th, 2010

We’re just a few short months away from the 100-year anniversary of one of the most horrific industrial tragedies in our nation, one that catapulted the issue of worker safety to the forefront and helped to usher in a new era reform, including the protection afforded by workers compensation programs. On March 21, 1911, The Triangle Factory Fire killed 146 women and girls, most of whom were trapped on an upper floor of the factory. They were unable to get out because the doors had been locked to prevent theft. You can read many first-person accounts of the tragedy at the link above. My colleague wrote about it in his post The Original “No Exit” : The Triangle Shirt Waist Factory Fire.
In the wake of this tragedy, many safety laws were enacted and many lessons were learned.
Or were they? Last week, the tragedy was mirrored in a Bangladesh garment shop fire that killed 29 women workers and injured another 100. It’s feared that more bodies will turn up. Reports say that to prevent theft, emergency exits were locked.
Now some might think that, however tragic, a fire in Bangladesh doesn’t have much to do with us here in the U.S. Except that in our global economy, it does. Many of the most successful U.S. retailers and clothing manufactures have outsourced former domestic garment jobs to some 4,000 Bangladesh factories. In an article Workers Burned Alive Making Clothes for the GAP, human rights and labor groups make the link. The article paints a grim picture of serial fatalities in Dickensian-era sweat shops where workers are paid less than a dollar a day. In response to publicized abuses, some US companies have established “Codes of Vendor Conduct,” but with a continuing stream of fatalities and worker abuses, labor groups question the effectiveness of these codes and demand a higher level of scrutiny. “How many times in one year do workers have to die before GAP Inc determines that the Hameem group “lacks the intent or ability” to make improvements? This is an American company accountable to American consumers.”
It’s not just The Gap. Other companies that are supplied by Bangladesh garment factories include Wal-Mart, Tesco, H&M, Zara, Carrefour, Gap, Metro, JCPenney, Marks & Spencer, Kohl’s, Levi Strauss and Tommy Hilfiger. Surely, American companies could join forces in leveraging their buying power to demand that safety and basic human rights are enforced.
Unfortunately, here in the U.S., we aren’t immune to such abuses, either. In 1991, 25 poultry workers were killed in a Hamlet chicken processing plant in North Carolina, another instance of workers being locked in. An investigation resulted in the owners receiving a 20-year prison sentence and the company was fined the highest penalty in the history of North Carolina. One would think that U.S. employers would have learned from the Triangle and the hamlet fires, but one would be wrong. In 2004, The new York Times reported that Walmart was locking night shift employees in. Later in the same year, OSHA cited a Winn Dixie supermarket in Mobile, Alabama for similar practices.
The road to good safety practices here in the US was paved with the blood of workers. It took incidents like the Triangle fire and large scale mining disasters before the US public clamored for reform. It remains to be seen whether the same types of offshore tragedies will galvanize consumer opinion enough to call for better worker protections.

Mining safety: not just for China

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

When the whistle blows each morning
And I walk down in this cold dark mine,
I say a prayer to my dear savior
Please let me see the sunshine one more day. A Miner’s Prayer

Our Google alert for safety today turned up the tragic story of 153 Chinese mine workers trapped underground in a flooded mine. China is a country that sees an annual miner death toll in the thousands:

“China’s mining industry is the world’s deadliest. Accidents killed “only” 2,631 coal miners last year, fewer than half the 6,995 deaths in 2002. However, many analysts doubt that the figures reflect reality, believing instead that many deaths simply go unreported.”

Here in the US, some retired miners might recall a day when our coal mining fatalities were up in the quadruple digits. We experienced more than one thousand annual coal mining fatalities through 1947. It wasn’t until after 1985 that fatalities dropped consistently from triple to double digits. Our worst disaster occurred in 1907, when 362 boys and men died in West Virginia’s Monongah Mine disaster after an underground explosion. In fact, the plethora of mining disasters with hundreds of fatalities were a backdrop leading to the establishment of better worker protections, including a workers compensation system. One can only hope the public will call for increasing safety and reforms in China mines.
For more on this story, we went to the best and most knowledgeable mining media source we know and it did not disappoint: Ken Ward’s Coal Tattoo has the latest coverage of the China tragedy, including an update which notes that warnings were ignored before mine flood. Ken reports on mining for the Charlotte Gazette. He and the people of West Virginia know quite a bit about mine disasters. Earlier this year, Ken reported that the nation experienced a record low in mining deaths last year – 34 – but he asks if that is enough. Good question. A little over a week ago, Ward reported that fewer than 1 in 10 U.S. mines have added improved communications and tracking equipment that could help miners escape an explosion or fire – a requirement after the MINER Act, a law that was prompted by a series of mining fatalities in 2006, including the Sago mine disaster.
Our sympathy goes out to the families of the China miners, who are suffering through a terrible vigil, the way so many other miners’ families have suffered. We can only hope that tragedy will serve as a catalyst to better safety advancements in China. And despite the progress we’ve made here in the U.S. over the years, we see by the recent report about the lackadaisical measures taken to protect our own miners, our memories are short.

Prior posts on mining
Cold comfort: Crandall Canyon survivors and workers comp
A bad way to make a living – links to interesting historical exhibits on mining
The sad, quiet death of Bud Morris – father, husband, motorcycle aficionado
The feds and Phantom Miners
Sago mining disaster and workers comp: newly formed insurer to pay benefits
Sago mining deaths: a sorry way to begin the new year

Cavalcade of Risk #101; vote for best student safety video

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Cavalcade of Risk #101 – Andrew of Ozrisk hosts this week’s edition of Cavalcade of Risk – check it out.
In other news this week, Roberto Ceniceros posts about making safety more fun than a workplace prank – a video contest sponsored by the Oregon Young Worker Health & Safety Coalition. The Coalition launched its second annual “Save a friend. Work safe” video contest, which invited Oregon high school students to submit a 45-second video about young worker safety on the job. Entries are competing for prizes ranging from $300 to $500, with matching amounts for each winner’s school. There were 50 entries this year, from which 7 finalists were chosen. Help pick the winner – log in to YouTube and view and rate the 7 finalists.
We’re all for creative ways to raise the issue of workplace safety with young workers. Also see Oregon’s Young Employee Safety page – O[yes]. The mission of O[yes] is “…to prevent young worker injuries and fatalities. O[yes] educates its constituency of young workers, educators, employers, parents and labor and trade associations through outreach, advocacy and sharing of resources. We pool our expertise, leverage resources and recognize the diversity and knowledge of our partners and the voice of young workers. O[yes] asserts that all injuries are preventable, all workers have a right to safe work and that young workers shall be treated respectfully and fairly.”