Posts Tagged ‘Accident Investigation’

My friend – JK – sent me this article about a Schindler elevator employee named Whitey who was killed during the construction of the new San Francisco 49ers stadium.  I am a firm believer that all accidents are preventable and, as employers, we have an obligation to provide a safe work environment.   It’s always easy to be a “Monday Morning Quarterback” when investigating an accident or reviewing program failures to determine what could have prevented the accident.

After the article, there are many postings where people make comments about the article.   There were many comments on safety and LOCK-OUT / Tag-Out.    One particular posting caught my eye.   Here is an excerpt from the posting:

I am an elevator mechanic. I knew “Whitey”. After reading a lot of these comments two things come to mind. First, lot of the safety first comments come from the heart but are clearly misguided. Second, for someone to post midget jokes and any joking at all are sick and should be deleted (what if it was your friend or brother or father?)

Lock-outs are used mainly when the elevator is unattended (to keep the other trades from using it to transport their parts, supplies or tools). Or when electrical work is being done. During the day they are unlocked in the morning and locked again at the end of a work day.

Also elevator work is usually done with a mechanic and a helper (apprentice). It is common for the helper to be doing one thing (stacking counterweights) and the mechanic another thing entirely (wiring switches in the pit.) The platform must be able to go up and down, even slightly, to enable the work to continue. Otherwise the workers would need a third person to stand next to the disconnect and constantly lock-out the disconnect. Because in a situation like that the helper would be going to the machine room locking out, going back, doing something (stack a few counterweights), and unlocking, going back, move the platform, then going back etc. Very little is accomplished using this method.

From what I can glean from these versions of events I will go with the one that has the helper stacking rails at the middle of the hoistway, he loses control of the counterweight, it drops and strikes the mechanic on the ladder. Even if the helper screamed to look out, there is just not enough time to climb off of a latter to get out of the way.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and loved ones. I hope the 49ers find a way to honor him. The brothers of local 8, Schindler Elevator and all that knew “Whitey” have lost a truly classy individual and he will not be forgotten. -Robbie Novoa

Misguided – Really?  I completely disagree with Mr Novoa and the brothers of local 8.   LOCK-OUT should always be used whenever any work is being performed – not only to keep the other trades from using it.   I don’t care if you need a third person on the crew or if the job is going to take longer.  Whitey would still be alive if he followed proper LOCK-OUT protocol.   Mr Novoa and the brothers of local 8 should use this as a wake-up call and not defend the carelessness of this 26 year veteran or of their profession.   To me, this is a classic example of an employee who has been doing something for a long time and had never been injured – therefore they felt it was OK to “bend the rules”.

We need to keep employees from feeling invincible and from circumventing safety rules and regulations.   We need to use this unfortunate incident as a wake-up call.  We need to re-emphasize the importance of  LOCK-OUT/ Tag-Out.   We need to heighten safety awareness.

I can’t stress enough the importance of LOCK-OUT.   It’s time to do some re-training – what about you?

STAY SAFE!     **  Jeff  **   214-215-2434

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I recently read this news story about a Mississippi employer who was fined when an employee fell into an unguarded screw conveyor while cleaning the machine and was killed.    The OSHA investigation turned up 43 violations – 37 of them were serious.  The proposed penalty is $160,000.

When I read a story like this I am DISGUSTED in two ways.   First, I am DISGUSTED with the employer who did not provide a safe workplace and allowed for an employee to be killed.   This same employer that had 37 serious violations during the OSHA inspection!    Secondly, I am DISGUSTED with OSHA for their penalties.   OSHA needs to make their proposed fines  starting at $1 million for any workplace fatality.   This will force companies to take workplace safety seriously.

As employers, we shouldn’t be motivated by the fear of large fines to do the right thing.   We should always provide a safe working environment – it’s our responsibility.   We need to truly embrace the notion that it is unacceptable for anybody to get hurt, no matter how minor.   Every one of our employees should go home in the same shape that they came to work each day.

I am going to send a letter to OSHA this week and explain that I am DISGUSTED with the proposed fines for fatalities.   What are you going to do?

STAY SAFE!     **  Jeff  **   214-215-2434

I read an article where a worker was killed while constructing the Chelsea Piers Sports Complex in Stamford, Connecticut.   The employee fell 35 feet while installing a metal roof.   Upon investigation, it was noted that the fall protection was inadequate and ineffective.   It was further noted that “This employer was well aware that these workers were exposed to falls but did not take steps to eliminate a significant hazard.   A combination of proper fall protection and effective training could have prevented this needless loss of life”.   American Building, LLC was fined $50,000 by OSHA for this incident.

$50,000??????  Really??????   What about criminal prosecution for management at American Building, LLC????   If American Building, LLC was well aware that these workers were exposed to this hazard and did not take steps to eliminate the hazard, somebody should be going to JAIL – not a $50,000 fine!

The killed worker was wearing his safety harness, but was not tethered to an anchor point.  Another worker on the job site  was tethered to an anchor point, but his lanyard was too long – if he fell, he would have hit the ground before his fall protection did any good.  Why did American Building, LLC supply safety harnesses that would not work?  Why did the American Building Supply, LLC not train these employees on proper tethering to a secure anchor point?  Did American Building Supply, LLC just go through the motions to satisfy the APPEARANCE OF SAFETY to OSHA?

Companies and negligent management need to be held personally liable for situations like this one.  It is unacceptable that this worker was killed on the job because there was not proper fall protection or effective training.    We have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace.   It is unacceptable for any worker to be injured on the job, let alone killed!

In my opinion, it’s time for OSHA to get real about protecting workers in America.   I am not advocating bureaucracy and a creation of additional rules and regulations.   I am not advocating increased inspections.   I support a responsibility by management to ensure that safety is a priority.   Make management personally liable and subject to jail time for gross negligence.    Management at companies, like American Building, LLC, would act differently if they personally faced jail time.  That’s how OSHA can get real about protecting workers in America.

I am going to actually BE safe – not just have the APPEARANCE OF SAFETY – what about you?

STAY SAFE!     **  Jeff  **   214-215-2434

If you experience a NEAR MISS accident, do you investigate?   Do you try to figure out what part of your safety program failed?   Do you genuinely care about someone almost being injured?  Or do you stick your head in the sand and pretend that nothing happened?

You should be investigating all near miss accidents as part of your accident prevention program.   It is a best practice that is used by almost all of the IndustryWeek Best Plants winners and finalists.   These are companies that are considered world-class in everything that they do.  They are considered the cream of the crop or the best of the best.    Here is a table of their responses over the past 5 years: 

It is unacceptable for anybody to be injured on the job.  We have an obligation to provide a safe work environment.   If conducting a near miss accident investigation and implementing corrective action prevent a future accident, then it was an effort that was worthwhile.

As a leader, don’t you want to strive to be the best?   The Industry Week data certainly suggests that near miss investigations are being conducted by almost all of the world class companies.   If you are not conducting near miss accident investigations – it’s not too late to start.   Remember, you can’t win the race unless you take the first step.  I’m ready to run – what about you?

STAY SAFE!     **  Jeff  **   214-215-2434