Increase In Industrial Vehicle Fatalities

Written By Daniel Aday, CompOne Administrators Safety & Loss Prevention Specialist

Industrial vehicles can range from electric golf carts to LP forklifts to diesel-powered excavators, and their usage can range from once a day to once a year. Regardless of the size, purpose, or how often they are used, there are inherent dangers from the operation of these within workplaces. Recently, Michigan has seen an increase in industrial vehicle-related fatalities, which highlights the need for improved industrial vehicle safety programs, on the job training, and ensuring safe operation for all types of industrial vehicles. If your operation includes the usage of industrial vehicles – regardless of whether it is for maintenance staff driving a flatbed utility cart to different parts of your site or if it is as major as utilizing an all-terrain forklift to deliver shingles to the roof of a structure – you must ensure employees are protected at all times.

As companies grow, communication between employers and employees tends to diminish, which is one, amongst many, reasons why written procedures are so important. When an employee’s scope of work begins to encompass the use of an industrial vehicle, it is imperative that your company’s expectations and policies are documented, trained and accessible to all employees. While some employees may have experience in operating an industrial vehicle, there may be a difference between the employer’s and employee’s understanding of a safe means of operation. Having something that is brief but comprehensive on your company’s procedures, general safety of the applicable equipment and expectations of safe use are the first steps in reducing or eliminating the chance of an injury or property damage.

There’s nearly nothing worse than learning about an accident that could have easily been avoided only if the affected employee was unaware of a “common sense” safety practice. Common sense is not sufficient when it comes to safety.Whether you are looking at OSHA general industry or construction safety standards, you will see the requirement to train employees in a multi-step process.

Step One consists of formal instruction. This can be either through a lecture, discussion, written material or some other means of classroom teaching. Step Two consists of practical training, through some means of demonstration of the equipment by the trainer. Step Three consists of the employee practicing and showing their capabilities as the trainer evaluates their skills. Follow up training should occur no more than three years after initial training or whenever an unsafe event occurs. Ensure all is documented and kept on file.

Accountability and responsibility are imperative for all those involved in the operation of industrial vehicles. Having some means of scheduled preventative maintenance for equipment, ensuring daily inspections are being performed and documented, observing safe driving behavior and providing adequate refresher training are recommended. If unsafe actions are occurring, pulling an employee’s industrial vehicle license may be required, until they are able to follow your company’s rules and drive in a safe manner. While there is a time and place for everything, a company’s zero tolerance policy for unsafe behavior (implying termination for unsafe behavior) is generally not warranted for unsafe industrial vehicle usage. Instead, the usage of progressive discipline and proper means of retraining is the preferred way to go. Only egregiously unsafe acts should warrant the need for a zero tolerance policy.

Whether your company has ever had an accident or not, there is always room for improvement. No one comes to work and plans on an injury. Taking the time today to make your industrial truck program safer, could mean one less injury tomorrow.

Posted in 2022, SEPTEMBER 2022 | Comments Off on Increase In Industrial Vehicle Fatalities

Ergonomics for Laborers and Skilled Trades

Written By Daniel Aday, CompOne Administrators Safety & Loss Prevention Specialist

Whether it is fitting a door, installing a washer, tightening a leaky faucet, running electrical or just driving a nail, ergonomics needs to be applied to each and every physical task that is performed. When most people think of ergonomics they may think of a comfy chair or a desk set at a proper height for typing, but it is so much more than that.

Ergonomics has become a trending word in everything from the news reports to business names to descriptions of car accessories. The truth behind ergonomics is that the best time to incorporate them is when the job is being created. The second best time is right now. Ergonomics is quite simply the most efficient way to go about doing something, period. Whenever an injury occurs, it is because there were additional unneeded forces created on the body. Streamlining work, while using the least amount of strength to do the job is not only going to improve the job itself, but minimize injuries to the body, as well, and boosts productivity. To go about avoiding ergonomics altogether is costing you time, productivity and injury. The best time to implement ergonomics is when a job, task or operation is still in the development phase. Everything from purchasing the proper hand tools to ensuring everyone has supportive shoes to having equipment available, if a situation warrants the need for it.

Starting off with hand tool handles – the next time purchasing anything that is meant to be held when used, there is a design factor that must not be ignored. Everything from the material it is made up of, to how it conforms to the hand should be considered. If it feels cheap, it will feel even cheaper when it is heavily used. Avoid hand tools with pre-formed finger slots. Ensure the handle is large enough to grasp, but not so large that the hand can’t fully close around it. Look for non-slip grips that are not too rough. Take a moment right now to look at your palm, then slowly close your hand into a fist. Halfway through closing, take a look at the opening between your fingers, palm and thumb. That shape is the shape you want to look for when choosing a tool’s handle. It is usually not perfectly round, but oval in shape.

Shoes with good soles are probably the most important aspect of a job that involves being on your feet most of the day. If you ever met someone who is cranky, it is most likely that they have uncomfortable shoes. Do not pick shoes for their design, but for protection and comfort. A comfortable shoe is one that has a supporting arch, a heel pad that absorbs the shock of each step, for millions of steps (1 million steps equals about 500 miles. The average person walks about 1,000 miles every year.) The shoes should allow good airflow. If your feet hurt by the end of the day, replace your shoes. If you can’t replace them, get shoe inserts. You can get your feet scanned at almost any RX store that sells shoe inserts. (You will thank me later!)

Injury occurs when there is a lack of adequate personnel, equipment or available resources. This is where some creativity, design and planning come into play. Everything from implementing administrative controls that ensure team lifting for anything over “X” number of pounds, to utilizing inexpensive tools like appliance dollies, drywall lifts (which can be used for more than just drywall) or lifting straps. All of these, when used safely, minimize injuries. While initially there may be a learning curve to these items, they will save time by means of not having loss time accidents or life-long injuries.

Additionally, train workers and staff on means of ergonomic improvements and proper lifting. For any assistance with ergonomic training or improvements for specific tasks, reach me at Daday@compone.net 

Posted in 2022, JULY | Comments Off on Ergonomics for Laborers and Skilled Trades

Advocacy Update

Forrest Wall March 2021Written by HBA and AAM CEO, Forrest M. Wall, CAE

Legislation Introduced To Restrict Criminal History Disclosure

Legislation which would prohibit rental property owners from requiring certain disclosures from prospective residents has been introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives. House Bill 6242 would create the Michigan Fair Chance Access to Housing Act. Under the proposal, a property owner is prohibited from the following:

  • Inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history or arrest record
  • Requiring disclosure of the applicant’s criminal history or arrest record
  • Requiring an applicant to authorize the release of their background
    check report
  •  Printing, circulating, posting or publishing of a statement/ad/notice
    sign which indicates an application will be denied solely or in part on
    an applicant’s criminal history or arrest record

The legislation exempts criminal history or arrest record disclosures required under federal or state law, as well as disclosure of registration as a sex offender. However, prior to inquiry/disclosure under this exemption the property owner must determine if the applicant is qualified to lease after review of the application, and, provide written notice to the applicant (which explains disclosures required, lists reasons the application may be denied, and allows a signed consent with certain options).

The proposed legislation provides for a complaint process under the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR). The bill requires MDCR to investigate all complaints, but makes it optional for the department to send a copy of the complaint to the landlord and request the landlord to file a response. The department may also request relevant records or documents, and may conduct a hearing. After investigation of the complaint, the department may file for temporary relief against the property owner in district court. That temporary relief can include an order restraining the property owner from denying the application. Additionally, if the department finds the property owner violated the act, the department may impose civil fines and require payment of damages and costs, as well as “other relief the department considers appropriate.”

Finally, the legislation requires the department to create a form containing the following:

  • A summary of an applicant’s rights under the law
  • A list of legal resources available to an applicant

Once the form is created, property owners are required to attach it as an addendum to all lease agreements and rental applications. Property owners would also be required to post the form in a common area on the property.

The legislation has been referred to the Committee on Regulatory Reform for consideration.

Posted in 2022, JULY | Comments Off on Advocacy Update

Advocacy Update

Forrest Wall March 2021Written by HBA and AAM CEO, Forrest M. Wall, CAE

CERA Program Closed
The Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) has announced the closing of the COVID Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA) program to new applications effective June 30, 2022. This program, which began accepting applications in March 2021, had received over 266,000 applications for assistance as of June 15. Over $1 Billion in federal rental and utility assistance funding has been appropriated to the program, and MSHDA will continue to process applications submitted prior to June 30.

With the announcement of the program closure, AAM sent a letter to the Michigan Supreme Court requesting the recission of Administrative Order 2020-17. This administrative order was implemented initially in conjunction with a state of emergency caused by COVID-19 and the statewide (followed by nationwide) eviction moratorium. It was further extended to facilitate the renter assistance funding from the federal government. The order provides for several requirements – including a two-hearing process – which alter and go beyond Michigan’s summary proceedings statute.

Regulations Now Account For Over 40 Percent Of Apartment Development Costs

Recently released research from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) shows regulations now account for an average of 40.6% of apartment development costs. The figure includes regulation imposed by all levels of government, and was based on a survey of 49 developers across the United States. A variety of regulations were cited, including zoning requirements, building codes, permitting, and safety rules to name a few. NAHB Chairman Jerry Konter said “This study clearly shows how burdensome regulations are exacerbating the nation’s housing affordability crisis and that officials at all levels of government need to make it a priority to reduce excessive regulatory costs to allow developers and builders to boost housing production and ease affordability challenges.” The full study is available at www.nahb.org.

Posted in 2022, JUNE 2022 | Comments Off on Advocacy Update

Lone Worker Safety

Written by Daniel Aday, CompOne Administrators Safety & Loss Prevention Specialist

In almost all fields of work, employees may periodically find themselves working in situations where they are the only employee within the area. This could be anything from a single employee driving from one site to a specific job location, hours away, to an employee staying later than anyone else and having to close up the building at the end of day. These lone workers typically do not recognize their increased risk when putting themselves in these situations where there may not be any safe contact who can help with emergencies, or prevent and deter unwanted hazards. Increased hazards for a lone worker can range from simply not having an additional person who can assist with team-lifting heavier loads to not having someone to respond to a medical emergency such as a heart attack. Specific hazards may be dependent on the location and environment, and may change with time of day or season. Specific hazards, for example, may be significantly warmer climates where an employee is working outside and starts to exhibit signs of heat stroke, where others may not be present to recognize the early symptoms of this illness. Other specific hazards may be due to heightened crime rates in the area and having an employee be considered an “easy target” to a would-be perpetrator or criminal.

Prevention of lone workers can be rather hard to achieve. Several jobs require employees to be working by themselves either due to low demand or volume of the job, the inability to employ more workers for specific tasks or any of dozens of other reasons. Referencing the hierarchy of safety controls, the most effective means of controlling hazards is to eliminate the hazard, substitute with something safer, engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment (PPE), respectively. This means, the most effective ways to control this inherent hazard is to eliminate working alone, substitute lone workers, or put in engineering controls – although none of these are feasible in most instances. This leaves us with the remaining two controls.

Administrative controls are fairly straightforward. This could be as simple as radio, phone or in-person check-ins on a predetermined time frame, such as 15 minute intervals during after-hours work sessions. Or, controlled areas, locked doors, not taking part in more hazardous activities during lone worker time or simply having periodic training of dos and don’ts while working alone. Whenever any means of administrative controls, or really any kind of controls, are used to address lone worker safety or any other hazard, procedures should be developed and taught to all affected employees. Training could consist of ensuring that you are always in contact with a colleague when traveling. Also, to have employees know that they must be more alert and aware of their surroundings and to have some pre-determined protocol of what to do when attempts to reach a lone worker go unanswered.

This brings us to our last control, personal protective equipment. PPE Controls may include lone worker devices that allow remote monitoring of employees who may be exposed to dangers. Some of these devices have been around for several years, such as panic buttons under desks that can activate a call to the nearest dispatch to alert them of a security emergency. Newer devices are designed around the ability to be mobile. While there are devices that are specific to the job, inexpensive but effective options may already be at your fingertips. A quick search on your phone’s app store will result in dozens of apps that range in price from free, to a small monthly fee. These apps allow someone to safely alert a designee of an emergency, make a call using limited button presses, allow for secure monitoring of workers exposed to environmental hazards or to allow the user to hold down a button until safely in their locked vehicle during late shifts.

While there is little regulation out there to enforce these rules to protect employees, employers have the duty to always protect their workers from any recognized hazard. For more information on Lone Worker Safety, please reach out to Dan at daday@compone.net.

Posted in 2022, JUNE 2022 | Comments Off on Lone Worker Safety