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Occupational Safety Blog

By Fred Rine, CEO of FDRsafety and former long-time Managing Director of Safety and Health at FedEx, Jim Stanley, President of FDRsafety and former No. 2 at OSHA headquarters and Mike Taubitz, Senior Advisor to FDRsafety and former Global Safety Director for General Motors.

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Creating a safe workplace requires exceeding the minimums

August 11th, 2011 posted by Jim Stanley

Jim Stanley

I’ve asked Marc Shaye, an attorney with more than 30 years experience in health and safety matters, to be a guest blogger this week. Here’s Marc’s take on why it takes more than doing the minimum to achieve a safe workplace. A fuller version of this article appears on our website.

From Marc:

We all know people who will do the minimum of what it takes, just to get by. It can be frustrating when we serve on a committee with people like this, or when we share job responsibilities with them.
But where safety is concerned, just meeting the minimum may mean more than annoyance; it can mean the difference between life and death.

In my 30-plus years in workplace health and safety, I’ve encountered any number of situations where a work site met OSHA standards, but still had an accident. Serious injuries and fatalities on the job site can be devastating to employees and to the organization’s goals — even if there is no serious punishment from regulatory agencies because the requirements were met.

Let me tell you about one experience I encountered at a blood plasma facility. Because of the nature of the work, this job site was held to exacting standards that extended beyond what OSHA typically requires. This facility met those standards and routinely held safety meetings to ensure that all personnel followed procedures.

One night, just before a three-day holiday, an accident happened, killing a worker. Now this wasn’t a newcomer and it wasn’t someone who had a pattern of doing only what it took to get by. This young man was considered a “wizard” at his job — and had earned a nickname to match. He regularly scored high marks in the safety program. He was so well regarded that he was charged with teaching his fellow employees the safety requirements of operating the system.

But on this night, he disregarded a faulty pressure valve on a tank. He paid for that mistake with his life.

What an investigation found

The ensuing investigation showed that bolts were defective or missing, which caused the lid to blow off the tank, killing “the wizard.” The company had a protocol for discarding defective bolts and replacing missing ones, which was reinforced in regular safety meetings mandated for all employees. The investigation showed that the company far exceeded the minimum requirements for job safety, but that did not prevent a fatal accident.

The company had done all that it could do to prevent accidents like this from happening, but one occurred regardless. This young worker— perhaps distracted by the upcoming holiday, too familiar with the equipment or too confident of his abilities—made a split-second decision that was devastating.

This was not an isolated incident. It’s a pattern I’ve seen a number of times.

Safety policies, training and procedures can take a company only so far. The National Safety Council’s Corporate Code of Ethics encourages corporations, businesses and employees to go beyond the minimum safety requirements. The code requires businesses to make health and safety a core value for every employee, and for employees to commit to never compromise their safety or that of their fellow employees. The code is based on the belief that all injuries are preventable.

With my years of dealing with workplace safety issues, it would be easy to become cavalier about creating an environment with zero injuries. “Accidents do happen,” the adage says. We can do everything we can do to mitigate them—training, policies and procedures. But accidents don’t have to happen—if we all go beyond the minimums and commit to safe practices each and every time.

We’re No. 8 and proud of it

November 11th, 2010 posted by Jim Stanley

Jim Stanley

We usually reserve this blog space for discussions of OSHA and other workplace safety issues. But today, we wanted to briefly depart to bring you some news about FDRsafety.

It’s not often that a company brags about being No. 8, but we’re actually kind of proud.

Business Insurance magazine has placed FDRsafety on its list of the 10 largest occupational safety companies in the country. It is our first appearance on the list.

Our growth is due to the loyalty of customers, but also to the expansion of our services.

While we started out as a training company, we realize that many of you may not realize that our offerings have grown dramatically to include:

Temporary staffing of safety professionals
OSHA compliance services, including mock OSHA audits and recordkeeping
Safety expert witness services
Industrial hygiene
Combustible dust
Electrical safety, including 70E
and, of course, our safety awareness training, which motivates workers to want to be safe rather than feeling that they have to be safe.

If we can be of service, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

A new standard for being socially responsible

August 23rd, 2010 posted by Mike Taubitz

Mike Taubitz

Today’s consumers seek organizations that demonstrate socially responsible business practices. ISO, the International Organization for Standardization, has been working on the issue for many years and has decided to launch an International Standard providing guidelines for social responsibility (SR). It will be available October 15.

ISO notes a need for organizations in both public and private sectors to behave in a socially responsible way is becoming a generalized requirement of society. The stakeholder groups that are participating in the in the development of this standard include industry, government, labor, consumers, nongovernmental organizations and others, in addition to geographical and gender-based balance.

The guidance standard will be published as ISO 26000 and be voluntary to use. It will not include requirements and will thus not be a certification standard. It will focus on seven key aspects of social responsibility: organizational governance, community involvement and development, environment, fair operating practices, consumer issues, labor practices, and human rights.

There is a range of opinions as to the right approach, ranging from strict legislation at one end to complete freedom at the other. ISO says it is looking for a middle road that promotes respect and responsibility based on known reference documents without stifling creativity and development. ISO’s guideline is designed to encourage voluntary commitment to social responsibility that will lead to common guidance on concepts, definitions and methods of evaluation.

The document is 100+ pages (including the annexes). For those who are interested, a website developed by representatives of EU industry can be found here.

The site is designed to help understand ISO 26000 without needing consultancy or other external services. The recommendations are developed from a user perspective, and may be particularly interesting for small and medium organizations.

ASQ, American Society for Quality, notes that increasing consumer demand leaves many asking, “Do we have what it takes?” As part of its growing effort to assume a leadership role locally and internationally in the SR movement, ASQ created the Socially Responsible Organization (SRO). If interested, you can join the community.

Make off-the-job safety a priority, too

May 19th, 2010 posted by Fred Rine

Fred Rine

A recent AAA Living Article entitled “Losing the Drinking Game” had some interesting statistics:

  • Every 45 minutes, someone in the US dies because of alcohol-impaired driving.
  • 2.5 million parents drive under the influence of alcohol yearly
  • About ½ of children killed in alcohol-related crashes are in the car with the impaired driver
  • $51 billion is the estimated annual cost of drunk-driving crashes

Lest you think that this blog is about drunk driving, it isn’t. The human tragedy and DUI numbers speak for themselves.

What perplexes me is why industry and the safety profession spends most or all of its energy on safety in the workplace. The workplace accounts for only 4% of fatalities. Last year, 39,000 people died on our highways, many from alcohol but others for a host of other causes. Another 76,000-plus accidental deaths occurred in the home and public.

These tragedies do not show up in OSHA recordable rates, another reason why more proactive and meaningful safety metrics are needed. I know the old adage “What gets measured, gets done” so perhaps we need to add some process metrics that will encourage management to deal with situations where 96% of all fatalities occur.

Why would we not begin to address these off-the job-issues in some manner? Not only are industries losing the services of valued employees, but, in many cases, the company ends up paying for healthcare one way or another. I am not suggesting that managers become responsible or accountable for employee health and well-being when not at work. I am suggesting that we begin to devote some small percentage of time and resources to address off-the-job safety.

FDRsafety has trained hundreds of thousands employees in safety awareness. I can assure you that making safety a 24-7 value and getting employees to think about the consequences that their unsafe actions could have on their family resonates with the most cynical of employees. This is not behavior-based safety, nor is it preaching or telling them what they “have to” do. Respect for people and talking to them in an honest and forthright manner helps them come to understand that “wanting to” be safe for the sake of their families can do much for on and off the job safety.

It is high time the safety profession started to infuse “safety is a 24-7 value” into their safety awareness training.

OSHA director pushes for larger penalties

March 17th, 2010 posted by Jim Stanley

Jim Stanley

Penalties for violation of OSHA standards are not high enough to discourage some employers from violating the law and they ought to be increased, according to the agency’s new director.

“Most employers want to do the right thing. But many others will only comply with OSHA rules if there are strong incentives to do so,” Dr. David Michaels testified to a congressional subcommittee yesterday. “OSHA’s current penalties are often not large enough to provide adequate incentives, and we are very low in comparison with those of other public health agencies,” Michaels said.

Michaels testimony was to the House Education and Labor Committee’s Subcommittee on Workforce Protections. The subcommittee is holding hearings on the proposed Protecting America’s Workers Act, which would make a number of revisions to workplace health and safety law.

Michaels said that environmental laws carry much heavier penalties than penalties under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. For example, in 2001 a tank of sulphuric acid exploded at a Delaware oil refinery, killing an employee. The OSHA penalty was $175,000, Michaels said. Yet in the same incident, thousands of dead fish and crabs were discovered, allowing an Environmental Protection Agency Clean Water Act citation of $10 million.