Terri White

Tuesday, 01 November 2005 19:00

Accident prevention

The reality is that accidents happen. Things go wrong, people make judgment errors and equipment malfunctions at inopportune times. The accident investigation report is integral to accident prevention.

Although no one wishes for accidents, the least you can do is make good use of them when they do happen. After all, they are valuable opportunities to uncover potential problems with the operation, employee training, management direction, material handling or equipment use.

By revealing and eliminating these problems, you eliminate the potential for more accidents, and because accidents equate to production waste, you’re saving yourself money.

Accident causes

At the root of any worthwhile investigation program is the identification of an accident’s cause. Without an identified cause, you can’t come up with solutions and start preventing future accidents. But accidents are usually complex and may have as many as 10 causal events that fall within three levels.

  • Basic — may be something management can control, such as employee training and follow-up training.
  • Indirect — could be physical, such as a missing guard on a press or piece of rotating equipment. A defective or improperly placed scaffold is a physical cause and may tell you there’s a problem with subcontractor control or prejob planning.
  • Direct — usually the result of one or more unsafe acts and/or circumstances. For example, the inability to safely absorb energy or hazardous material can be a direct cause of an accident.

In spite of this complexity, most prevention solutions are based on simply eliminating one or more potential accident causes.

The accident report
So, how do you identify causes and eliminate them? The accident report can tell you what went wrong. Use the following outline when you find yourself faced with investigating an accident. Better yet, create a reusable template that can be called into action each time you need it.

  • Background information

a. Where and when the accident occurred

b. Who and what were involved

c. Operating personnel and other witnesses

  • Account of the accident

d. Sequence of events

e. Extent of damage

f. Accident type

g. Agency or source (of energy or hazardous material)

  • Discussion (analysis of the accident)

h. Basic causes (i.e., management policies, personal or environmental factors)

i. Indirect causes (i.e., unsafe acts and conditions)

j. Direct causes (i.e., energy sources or hazardous materials)

  • Recommendations

k. For example, recommendation to purchase additional protective equipment or implement a follow-up program for safety training

Who should complete investigations?
The manager, supervisor and/or foreman normally investigates accidents, although some companies hire dedicated safety personnel to do this. No matter who completes the investigation, top management should review the reports.

An action plan with clear expectations and duties should be created, with all involved realizing the importance of following it.

When management places enough priority on safety to actually formalize a program, employee morale rises accordingly. However, the program also improves the bottom line, including commercial liability insurance premiums. When you make your workplace safe, you are a better risk in the eyes of insurers.

Contact your local independent insurance agent and ask how your company’s safety program impacts your policy.

Dave White, manager with risk services at Westfield Insurance, can be reached at (330) 887-0354 or davidwhite@westfieldgrp.com. In business for more than 157 years, Westfield Insurance provides commercial and personal insurance services to customers in 17 states. Represented by leading independent insurance agencies, the product we offer is peace of mind and our promise of protection is supported by a commitment to service excellence. For more information, visit www.westfieldinsurance.com.

Thursday, 29 September 2005 20:00

Rules to live by

Whether you run a large-scale, heavily automated manufacturing operation or a small business office, safety is a critical concern. No matter what the size of your business or risk potential, an objective and disciplined assessment of your safety status could save your employees — and you — a world of hurt.Establishing a formal safety program for your business is about more than just good employee relations — it’s good business. Accident prevention is at the top of the list of why you need a safety program. Add OSHA regulations, employee morale, clear economic benefits and a growing trend of involvement in safety by unions and staff, and you have some very compelling reasons for taking a serious look at your company’s safety situation.Here are nine simple guidelines to help you create an effective safety program for your business.
  • Create a safety statement.Provide a clear statement of policy, mission, goals and objectives. Having these items in writing will help you evaluate the program and measure its success.

  • Follow safety standards.OSHA, DOT, FDA and EPA set standards that must be followed by all businesses. In addition, OSHA requires recordkeeping to report accidents and illness.

  • Form a safety committee.Responsibility for measuring, improving and evaluating your program should rest with a competent and authorized safety committee. This committee should include representatives from various levels and departments in your business. Give authority to this group to make immediate changes to unsafe acts occurring in the workplace.

  • Implement employee training.Develop a company safety and health manual, train new and existing employees, provide proper documentation and retrain employees as needed (such as when standards or codes have changed). New safety programs must be part of this training and performed in a timely manner.

  • Keep it simple.Make your safety program user-friendly and readily available. With today’s technology, sharing safety policies and information is easier than ever before. Whether online or in hard-copy format, all employees should have easy access.

  • Communicate support from management.Top management needs to demonstrate a commitment to the importance of safety and your company’s safety policies. Don’t expect your employees to observe safety rules you don’t enforce them.

  • Perform safety audits.Hazard surveys are used to evaluate workplace safety issues associated with machinery, material and employees, along with at-risk behaviors. Once risks are evaluated, your safety committee should prioritize the worst hazards, dealing with them quickly. Once changes are implemented, the safety committee should perform follow-up surveys to ensure these corrections are adequate.

  • Conduct loss analysis.Look to your insurance company to review claims from the previous three to five years and prepare an analysis that includes causes of loss. Your business can then implement changes to reduce the likelihood that accidents will reoccur.

  • Introduce an accident investigation program.A solid accident investigation program includes training supervisors to perform investigations professionally and accurately. Effective accident investigations document what occurred, why and what has been done to prevent a recurrence. In addition, reports need to show when the hazard was corrected and by whom.

Ask your independent insurance agent about risk control and how your insurance company can assist you in developing or updating a safety program at your place of business.

Dave White, manager with risk services at Westfield Insurance, can be reached at (330) 887-0354 or davidwhite@westfieldgrp.com. In business for more than 157 years, Westfield Insurance provides commercial and personal insurance services to customers in 17 states. Represented by leading independent insurance agencies, the product we offer is peace of mind and our promise of protection is supported by a commitment to service excellence. For more information, visit www.westfieldinsurance.com.

Monday, 22 July 2002 10:06

How to cut your utility bills

Every year when Earth Day rolls around, many big businesses seize the opportunity to publicize their commitment to clean environment. Often, their stories are about new energy-efficient technologies enabling them to save money while dramatically cutting pollution.

Now, this same story is one that many businesses can also tell, thanks to Energy Star Small Business program, a service of the Environmental Protection Agency.

ESSB helps businesses overcome the obstacles associated with gaining profits from energy efficiency. Small business may be the most dynamic sector of the economy, but the reality is that harried small-business owners often lack time, money and knowledge when it comes to being energy-efficient. How can they know if it's worth pursuing or not?

A larger business will have an engineer to make a technical analysis and an economist to figure out costs and benefits. Now this same kind of advice and assistance is available to small businesses through ESSB.

The new program is designed to provide assistance without the red tape or requirements of the typical government program. Through ESSB, s small business agrees to look into energy-conserving upgrades and to voluntarily institute those that would have a payback of three years or less. Meanwhile, EPA agrees to provide non-biased technical information and public recognition.

Because cost-cutting is second nature to a small business, the good news is the ESSB program offers small businesses the chance to cut costs and help protect nature. How?

Every time a light, computer or monitor is turned on, a power plant consumes fuel to generate electricity. This fuel-to-energy conversion results in some pollution. When fossil fuels are burned to produce electricity, carbon dioxide - a significant contributor to the negative effects of climate change - is released into the atmosphere. So is sulfur dioxide, a contributor to acid rain.

So far, EPA's Energy Star and Green Lights Programs have prevented the emission of more than 3.5 billion pounds of carbon dioxide-voluntarily, at a profit to business. And smaller firms are increasingly supporting these pollution-reduction efforts.

One small company that came out a winner through ESSB is Manic, Gold and Chatter, a Bala Cynwyd, Pa.-based law firm renting a 20,500-square-foot office. By using more efficient lights and exit signs and installing infrared occupancy sensors that turn off unneeded lights, the 50-person company has been able to cut its electric bill by more than $11,000 a year and reduce annually 188,000 pounds of carbon dioxide power-plant pollution.

Any small business with a facility of less than 100,000 square feet-about the size of a "big box" retail store or an average five-floor office building-can participate. It's purely voluntary and free. Companies are flocking to take part.

Here are a few easy tips for small businesses to get started:

  • Calibrate your thermostats and then adjust them for colder weather. Find the lowest temperature you can set it at where employees and customers are warm. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers recommends 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on where you live. Cost: none. Savings potential: about $1,000 a year for a small office building open during regular business hours.

  • Open drapes or other window treatments in cooler months to let the sun shine in and warm your office. Then keep the thermostat a little lower. Do the opposite in the warmer months. Cost: none. Savings potential: about $7 per window in January. Savings will vary according to location, window orientation, month, and shading coefficient.

  • Check all doors and windows for drafts and leaks. Caulk and weather-strip them as necessary. Cost: $5 or less. Savings potential: about $2 per fixed leak, plus savings associated with increased employee productivity from improved comfort.

  • Clean your air filters. Cost: none or about $2 if you need to replace one. Savings potential: from $5 to $60 per filter, depending on the size of your HVAC system.

  • Turn off your office equipment when it's not in use. Cost: none. Savings potential: up to $44 per computer. Savings depend on what you pay per kwh.

  • Install occupancy sensors in corridors and other areas where lights could be left off most of the time. Cost: $25 to $80. Savings potential: about $40 a year depending on placement of sensors.

  • Turn off your water heater overnight and on weekends. Cost: nothing, or $30 if you buy an automatic timer to do it for you. Savings potential: up to about $54 a year depending on the use of hot water.

  • Lower the thermostat setting on your water heater. Cost: nothing. Savings potential: about $24 a year, if the temperature is dropped 10 degrees F and operates at the lowest allowable temperature for normal operating usage.

  • Install LED exit signs. Cost: about $70 to retrofit. Savings potential: about $24 a year per sign.

  • Set back your thermostats at night and on weekends. Cost: none. Savings potential: nearly $1,800 a year for a 33,000-sq.ft. office building, if the thermostat was set at 75 degrees F, 24 hours a day during the heating months.

    To join and receive all the benefits of Energy Star Small Business, call (888) STAT-YES or visit www.epa.gov/smallbiz Terri White is an environmental protection specialist for Region 3 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.