“Addressing Safety Challenges for Disabled Workers” – “How Do You Get Through Your Day?”

Richie Parker, HMS Engineer -“How Do You Get Through Your Day?” – Video Courtesy of Hendrick Motorsports® ESPN®

Employees in today’s workplace face many challenges. Work forces have been cut, and in many cases, workdays have been extended. Older workers are unable to retire, while younger workers are unable to find work. New technology is introduced into the workplace, requiring all to relearn how to perform their jobs. This is difficult for the average worker, but it is extremely difficult if an employee is further hindered by disabilities.

Disabilities of all types affect employees and can pose various mental or physical challenges. In many situations, a disability may impact the amount of time it takes for an employee to complete a task or get from one part of a facility to another. Some disabilities may be known while others remain unknown to an employer. Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employees with disabilities can continue to work without fear of losing their jobs1.

All employees with disabilities deserve the right to support their families. If otherwise qualified for a job, a disability should not take away an individual’s opportunity to work. Existing laws protected those discriminated against for race, sex, national origin and color, but the ADA was the first law to speak for those with disabilities in the workplace.

The ADA disallows discrimination against otherwise qualified individuals in an employment setting because of mental or physical disabilities2. This means that in many situations, the employer has to adjust a work environment to allow an employee to function. In 2009, the ADA was amended to include additional information and coverage. This amendment required the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to make changes to their regulations regarding the term “substantially limits” and how it is defined2. It also broadens the definition of “major life activities” to include many new activities.

Workplace Adaptations

As with any law that changes the workplace, some fight or avoid it while others fully embrace and promote it. One major compliance concern deals with accessibility. Because of this, many workplaces have adjusted or created more accessible entrances and exits to their facilities, allowing more independence for persons in wheelchairs. Other subtle changes may include the height of water fountains, width of bathroom stalls, hand rails inside the stalls and long ramps instead of stairs. The path of travel that employees take should never be obstructed; there should be no barriers to prevent someone from getting to safety in an emergency3.

Making accommodations in the workplace is important, yet one must avoid making a spectacle of employees with disabilities. One concept being utilized in workplaces is universal design, which is best defined as designing products and work spaces to allow use by everyone, regardless of disability4. This eliminates many cases of employees standing out or requiring special assistance to be able to complete their tasks. Better designed work spaces can increase function for all employees, regardless of age4. This still is a relatively new idea and few examples exist in the workplace despite multiple studies proving the effectiveness.

The goal is to remove all barriers and allow everyone to concentrate on completing job tasks.

Workstations easily can be adapted to follow this universal design. Many companies now use slide-out keyboard trays and monitors on swinging arms to allow employees to adjust to their needs. Desks can accommodate wheelchairs in place of regular chairs, and general work spaces can be lowered to allow easier access. All workplaces eventually will follow the universal design approach3. The main goal is to remove all barriers and allow everyone to concentrate more on completing their tasks.

The biggest challenge with universal design is accommodating the multitude of challenges that different disabilities present. Not all disabilities are the same, and not all will present the same challenges for employees. Some employees may have issues with their right hand while others have issues with their left. For some, it may involve not being able to stand or sit. Some may need low lighting, while others need bright lighting. Designing a facility to accommodate all is always going to be a challenge.

Some disabilities require a service animal to be able to get around or reach materials. ADA protects those that need such animals. This can create another complication for an employer if other employees are allergic to such animals. The employer must work with all parties involved to find a solution.

Companies using older facilities often have the most trouble complying with guidelines of the ADA. Designing a building from the ground up is much easier than attempting to retrofit existing facilities. Some of the complications with retrofitting facilities include adding adequate doorways. Depending on the design of the structure, adding doorways can be complicated and require an extensive amount of remodeling. Other complications include retrofitting areas with stairs and restrooms with stalls that are too narrow. Moving plumbing may require the existing floor to be torn out and require a lot of time.

Read the remainder of the story here: http://ehstoday.com/safety/addressing-safety-challenges-disabled-workers

Source: EHS Today®

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“New NFPA Video Underscores Long-Lasting Realities Of Home Fire Survivors”

FSI and NFPA Logo_w name and tag

On average, there are nearly 13,000 civilian fire injuries attributed to home fires each year.

In cooperation with the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, NFPA has produced a new video underscoring the painful aftermath of these injuries. Burn care specialists from the William Randolph Hearst Burn Center, one of the premier burn care hospitals in the U.S., detail the frequency of home fire injuries and painstaking recovery of burn survivors. Their stories help underscore the arduous recovery and procedures survivors endure post-fire.

The video is the latest produced for NFPA’s Faces of Fire Campaign, a component of NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative that helps humanize North America’s home fire problem and highlights the necessity of fire sprinklers in new homes. We will be releasing a second video from our interviews with the William Randolph Hearst Burn Center specialists in the next few weeks and will alert you when it’s available.

Please help us spread the word about this important video by: 
Sharing the video link directly on social media

Embedding the video directly on a web page [use this code: http://a%20class=]

Source: NFPA Xchange By:  Fred Durso on Jan 4, 2017

“Oakland Warehouse Dance Party Fire a Rare Disaster, But Troubling Trend Continues”

screenshot-www-ktvu-com-2016-12-03-14-04-22

In this age of modern building construction and fire codes, large loss-of-life fires in assembly occupancies just aren’t supposed to happen. But, for some reason, they continue to. I noticed a trend following The Station fire; I thought to myself, “Seems like it’s been about ten years since we’ve seen a fire like this.” I was close; it was 13 years.

The trend started with the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire in Southgate, KY, which killed 165 people in 1977. Thirteen years later, in 1990, 87 people died in a fire at the Bronx, NY Happy Land social club. Another thirteen years later, in 2003, The Station nightclub fire in West Warwick, RI, killed 100.

And here we are, thirteen years later, counting the dead in an electronic dance music party fire at a warehouse turned artist collective/residence/performance space in Oakland, CA known as “Ghost Ship;” the death toll currently stands at 36 and is expected to rise.

NFPA president Jim Pauley spoke to the New York Times about the role fire codes have played in making fires, such as the one that occurred Friday night, rare occurrences. There is no question that codes have come a long way over the last 40 or so years, and if they’re followed, the probability that a fire will have such devastating consequences is low. Today’s codes, like NFPA 101, require automatic sprinkler systems, fire alarm systems, and multiple, protected means of egress from large assembly spaces. (News outlets report the Oakland warehouse was not sprinklered, and means of egress from the second-floor assembly space was limited to a single stair; it is still very early in the investigation.)

So the question we, as fire protection and life safety professionals, must ask is, “Are we doing enough to prevent these tragedies?” Do the codes, as they stand today, provide a “reasonable” level of protection? If we do nothing, is it reasonable to expect that in thirteen years we will see another tragedy like the one this past weekend? Maybe it will be eight years, maybe eleven, but I think the answer is, “most likely.” The alternative is to do “something.” I don’t know what that “something” is. Do we pile more requirements onto the codes, effectively penalizing those who diligently comply with the requirements already on the books? And how effective would new requirements be? If building owners aren’t complying with today’s requirements, should we expect them to comply with new ones? What about enforcement? I know very well the budget constraints faced by municipal fire departments. State and local fire prevention agencies do tremendous work with their limited resources. It’s probably not reasonable to expect code enforcers to catch every illegal large assembly gathering.

The answer eludes me. And it’s troubling. I recently became the staff liaison for NFPA’s Technical Committee on Assembly Occupancies, so this hits close to home. It’s my hope to get the conversation going so we can put an end to this trend. Or we can carry on, status-quo. If we do, history suggests we’ll see another large loss-of-life assembly occupancy fire. Probably in about 13 years, around 2029. I hope I’m wrong.

Source: by Gregory Harrington NFPA xChange

103 Years Ago, March 25, 1911, 123 Young Women Working In A Factory Never Came Home. It Changed Our Country.

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire – March 25, 1911

It may not seem that the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire, which happened over a century ago in New York City, would be relevant today — but it is. It was a tragedy that opened the nation’s eyes to poor working conditions in garment factories and other workplaces, and set in motion a historic era of labor reforms. Unfortunately, we haven’t built enough on these gains. Today, too many employers are failing to obey the labor and workplace safety laws that were enacted in the years following the tragedy. And in part because our government is not adequately enforcing these laws, workers are still needlessly losing their lives on the job. There is a lot that we can and must do to ensure that the well being of workers is put above profits.

The Triangle Shirtwaist incident is remembered for its shocking brutality: On March 25, 1911, a ferocious fire broke out at a factory on the ninth floor of a building in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Some of the exits and stairwells had been locked to prevent workers from taking breaks or stealing, leaving many unable to get out. As a result, 146 workers, mostly young immigrant women, died within 20 minutes. They were burned alive, asphyxiated by smoke or died trying to escape out of the windows and balcony.

The horrific event generated a nationwide outcry about working conditions and spurred efforts to improve standards. Activists and labor unions like the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) — which lost members in the fire — were at the forefront of this push for reforms. Honoring the memory of those who died is particularly important to me and others at Amalgamated Bank, which was founded by a garment worker’s union in 1923, and is now majority-owned by Workers United, the successor to all major garment worker unions, including the ILGWU.

Thanks to the efforts of the ILGWU and all who fought for workplace reforms, real changes got underway immediately; in 1911, New York State initiated the most comprehensive investigation of factory conditions in U.S. history. Their conclusions informed new standards that other states across the country replicated and built upon in subsequent years.

We’ve come a long way since the fire happened — but it’s clear we still have a long way to go.

After all, workplace safety issues are hardly a thing of the past. It seems like nearly every year, another workplace disaster happens somewhere in the United States. Like last year, when a fertilizer plant in Texas exploded, killing 14 and injuring over 160. Or in 2010, when an explosion at a West Virginia coal mine run by Massey Energy killed 29 miners and the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion left 11 workers dead and caused an enormous environmental disaster.

Thankfully, none of these events matched the human cost of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire — or the devastating factory collapse in Bangladesh last year where 1,129 people died — but they should send a similar message. No one should lose his or her life because companies are putting profit making ahead of worker protections, and because our government is not performing its critical watchdog role. Experts say that in each of the cases cited above, proper safety precautions could have prevented the devastating accidents.

But companies are not consistent in their practices of adhering to worker safety precautions. So it’s up to us — through pressure on our government and strategically exercising our rights as consumers and shareholders — to ensure that the right rules are in place and that companies play by them.

This issue of worker safety is of particular concern for undocumented workers who often receive the worst treatment of all. While working in some of our most physically demanding and low-paying jobs — from construction to landscaping, and from housekeeping to daycare and nursing — many of their employers also cut corners when it comes to their safety, knowing they are less likely than other workers to stand up for their rights. Immigrants have been crucial contributors to our economy since our nation’s founding. Teenagers from Russia, Italy and Germany worked side-by-side at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory — just as immigrants from all over the world do in today’s workplaces — and it’s time we treated them with the fairness and respect they deserve.

How can we avoid these kinds of safety problems and exploitation to begin with? We can start by reinvigorating the role of unions. While unions continue to do everything they can to curb these abuses, the proportion of the workforce that is unionized has eroded dramatically since its peak in the 1950s. To ensure both safety and fairness on the job, workers need to join together on the job to improve their working conditions.

Institutional investors and other shareholders of publicly traded companies also have an important role to play. By pursuing corporate governance reforms when needed and lawsuits when companies commit serious wrongdoing, investors can spur changes from the inside out. Corporate governance actions can’t erase the tragedy, but they can help make sure companies — and their competitors — are looking out for workers going forward.

Government also needs to step up. In so many cases of workplace safety problems or worker mistreatment, there are laws on the books that just aren’t being enforced. Our elected officials need to fight for resources for workplace inspections through agencies like OSHA — which has consistently faced cuts in recent years — and ensure thorough investigations when problems are brought to their attention. For citizens, that means making our voices heard about the importance of workplace safety, and voting for elected officials who represent those views.

We can’t undo history and bring back those we’ve lost. But we can prevent others from suffering similar fates — and work to ensure both safety and fairness in the workplace — now and in the future.

Source: Keith Mestrich

Follow Keith Mestrich on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/AmalgamatedBank

Addressing Safety Challenges for Disabled Workers – “How Do You Get Through Your Day?”

Richie Parker, HMS Engineer -“How Do You Get Through Your Day?” – Video Courtesy of Hendrick Motorsports® ESPN®

Employees in today’s workplace face many challenges. Work forces have been cut, and in many cases, workdays have been extended. Older workers are unable to retire, while younger workers are unable to find work. New technology is introduced into the workplace, requiring all to relearn how to perform their jobs. This is difficult for the average worker, but it is extremely difficult if an employee is further hindered by disabilities.

Disabilities of all types affect employees and can pose various mental or physical challenges. In many situations, a disability may impact the amount of time it takes for an employee to complete a task or get from one part of a facility to another. Some disabilities may be known while others remain unknown to an employer. Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employees with disabilities can continue to work without fear of losing their jobs1.

All employees with disabilities deserve the right to support their families. If otherwise qualified for a job, a disability should not take away an individual’s opportunity to work. Existing laws protected those discriminated against for race, sex, national origin and color, but the ADA was the first law to speak for those with disabilities in the workplace.

The ADA disallows discrimination against otherwise qualified individuals in an employment setting because of mental or physical disabilities2. This means that in many situations, the employer has to adjust a work environment to allow an employee to function. In 2009, the ADA was amended to include additional information and coverage. This amendment required the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to make changes to their regulations regarding the term “substantially limits” and how it is defined2. It also broadens the definition of “major life activities” to include many new activities.

Workplace Adaptations

As with any law that changes the workplace, some fight or avoid it while others fully embrace and promote it. One major compliance concern deals with accessibility. Because of this, many workplaces have adjusted or created more accessible entrances and exits to their facilities, allowing more independence for persons in wheelchairs. Other subtle changes may include the height of water fountains, width of bathroom stalls, hand rails inside the stalls and long ramps instead of stairs. The path of travel that employees take should never be obstructed; there should be no barriers to prevent someone from getting to safety in an emergency3.

Making accommodations in the workplace is important, yet one must avoid making a spectacle of employees with disabilities. One concept being utilized in workplaces is universal design, which is best defined as designing products and work spaces to allow use by everyone, regardless of disability4. This eliminates many cases of employees standing out or requiring special assistance to be able to complete their tasks. Better designed work spaces can increase function for all employees, regardless of age4. This still is a relatively new idea and few examples exist in the workplace despite multiple studies proving the effectiveness.

The goal is to remove all barriers and allow everyone to concentrate on completing job tasks.

Workstations easily can be adapted to follow this universal design. Many companies now use slide-out keyboard trays and monitors on swinging arms to allow employees to adjust to their needs. Desks can accommodate wheelchairs in place of regular chairs, and general work spaces can be lowered to allow easier access. All workplaces eventually will follow the universal design approach3. The main goal is to remove all barriers and allow everyone to concentrate more on completing their tasks.

The biggest challenge with universal design is accommodating the multitude of challenges that different disabilities present. Not all disabilities are the same, and not all will present the same challenges for employees. Some employees may have issues with their right hand while others have issues with their left. For some, it may involve not being able to stand or sit. Some may need low lighting, while others need bright lighting. Designing a facility to accommodate all is always going to be a challenge.

Some disabilities require a service animal to be able to get around or reach materials. ADA protects those that need such animals. This can create another complication for an employer if other employees are allergic to such animals. The employer must work with all parties involved to find a solution.

Companies using older facilities often have the most trouble complying with guidelines of the ADA. Designing a building from the ground up is much easier than attempting to retrofit existing facilities. Some of the complications with retrofitting facilities include adding adequate doorways. Depending on the design of the structure, adding doorways can be complicated and require an extensive amount of remodeling. Other complications include retrofitting areas with stairs and restrooms with stalls that are too narrow. Moving plumbing may require the existing floor to be torn out and require a lot of time.

Read the remainder of the story here: http://ehstoday.com/safety/addressing-safety-challenges-disabled-workers

Source: EHS Today®

Is Your Evacuation Plan Working? – If Not, Here’s The OSHA Requirements.

What’s wrong with this video? Are we this complacent? Is Everyone a reporter? – What Would YOU Do? (Note: Raw News Footage. The first minute should show you all you need to know!)

Evacuation Plans and Procedures eTool - What is an Emergency Action Plan- 2014-01-21 14-40-32

OSHA Evacuation Plans & Procedures E-Tool: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/evacuation/

OSHA Requirements:

Fight or Flee? | Extinguisher Basics | Fire Extinguisher Use | Extinguisher Placement and Spacing
Hydrostatic Testing |Test Your Knowledge

The requirements of this section apply to the placement, use, maintenance, and testing of portable fire extinguishers provided for the use of employees. The selection and distribution section does not apply to extinguishers provided for employee use on the outside of workplace buildings or structures.

Where extinguishers are provided but are not intended for employee use and the employer has an emergency action plan and a fire prevention plan that meet the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.38, then only the requirements of the inspection, maintenance and testing and hydrostatic testing sections apply [29 CFR 1910.157(a)]. To comply with OSHA requirements, consider the following:

 

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“Oxygen Bars” – A New Headache For The Fire Service?

This video is for information on these establishments only. Not something I endorse – Jack Benton

Oxygen Bars: Is a Breath of Fresh Air Worth It?

Peppermint, bayberry, cranberry, wintergreen. Breath mints? Scented candles? No–they’re “flavors” of oxygen offered at your local oxygen bar. Since oxygen bars were introduced in the United States in the late 1990s, the trend has caught on, and customers are bellying up to bars around the country to sniff oxygen through a plastic hose (cannula) inserted into their nostrils. And many patrons opt for the “flavored” oxygen produced by pumping oxygen through an aroma en route to the nose.

The oxygen experience in a bar can last from a few minutes to about 20 minutes, depending on customers’ preferences and the size of their wallets. The price of about a dollar a minute could leave you gasping for air, but frequent inhalers may get a discount.

Most oxygen bar proprietors are careful not to make medical claims for their product, and state that their oxygen is not a medical gas–it’s made and offered strictly for recreational use. But under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, any type of oxygen used by people for breathing and administered by another person is a prescription drug. “It doesn’t matter what they label it,” says Melvin Szymanski, a consumer safety officer in the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). “At the other end of the hose is oxygen, and the individual that provides you with the nasal cannula and turns on the canister for your 20-minute supply is actually dispensing the prescription drug oxygen to you.”

Although oxygen bars that dispense oxygen without a prescription violate FDA regulations, the agency applies regulatory discretion to permit the individual state boards of licensing to enforce the requirements pertaining to the dispensing of oxygen, says Szymanski. Many states choose to allow oxygen bars; others discourage the businesses by requiring strict compliance with the law. However, serious health claims made for oxygen, such as curing cancer or AIDS, or helping ease arthritis pain, would be investigated by the FDA, adds Szymanski.

Healthy or Just Hype?

Oxygen fans tout the benefits of oxygen as reducing stress, increasing energy and alertness, lessening the effects of hangovers, headaches, and sinus problems, and generally relaxing the body. But there are no long-term, well-controlled scientific studies that support these claims for oxygen in healthy people. And people with healthy lungs don’t need additional oxygen, says Mary Purucker, M.D., Ph.D., a pulmonary specialist in CDER. “We’ve evolved for millions of years in an atmosphere of about 21 percent oxygen.”

The American Lung Association says that inhaling oxygen at oxygen bars is unlikely to have a beneficial physiological effect, but adds “there is no evidence that oxygen at the low flow levels used in bars can be dangerous to a normal person’s health.”

People with certain medical conditions are another matter. Some need supplemental oxygen, but should not go to oxygen bars, says Purucker. People with some types of heart disease, asthma, congestive heart failure, pulmonary hypertension, and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, such as emphysema, need to have their medical oxygen regulated carefully to oxygenate their blood properly, says Purucker. “If they inhale too much oxygen, they can stop breathing.”

People who have received bleomycin, a chemotherapy used to treat some types of cancer, are in danger if they are exposed to high levels of oxygen for too long, adds Purucker. “People think oxygen is good, but more is not necessarily better.”

One of the FDA’s biggest concerns about oxygen bars is the use of “flavored” oxygen, says Purucker. The flavor is produced by bubbling oxygen through bottles containing aromatic solutions and then pumping the vaporized scent through the hose and into the nostrils. Some bars use oil-free, food-grade particles to produce the aroma, but others may use aroma oils. Inhaling oily substances can lead to a serious inflammation of the lungs, known as lipoid pneumonia. Even if an oil-free medium is used, the purity or sterility of the aerosol that is generated cannot be guaranteed. Susceptible customers run the risk of inhaling allergens or irritants that may cause them to wheeze. Inhalation of live contaminants such as bacteria or other pathogens may lead to infection.

Other Oxygen Hazards

Although oxygen doesn’t burn, it does fuel the combustion process. “Smoking anywhere near oxygen, even in the same room, can be extremely dangerous,” says Duane Sylvia, a consumer safety officer in CDER. While some oxygen bars are located in health spas or other facilities that don’t allow smoking, others are found in nightclubs or casinos where smoking is common. Another fire hazard is the addition of substances, such as oils, in an oxygen-enriched environment.

Improper maintenance of oxygen equipment presents a potential danger. Some oxygen concentrators use clay filters, which can start growing pathogenic microorganisms that can cause infection if they are not changed regularly.

And oxygen cylinders can be very hazardous if they are stored on their sides or not kept in a well-ventilated area, says Sylvia.

Pumping Oxygen

Most oxygen bars use either “aviators breathing oxygen” or oxygen extracted out of the air in the bar. Aviators breathing oxygen (ABO) is a medical-grade oxygen, not less than 99.0 percent pure, intended for commercial or private aircraft use. ABO should not be used for recreational inhalation or medical therapeutic treatment of humans or animals.

Many oxygen bars use a concentrator, which filters out the nitrogen and other gases in the air circulating in the room, and then delivers the concentrated oxygen, about 95 percent pure, through a hose at a continuous flow rate. But oxygen users inhale the surrounding air along with the oxygen pumped through the nose hose, which decreases the concentration. The concentration is further decreased when oxygen is pumped through an aroma. According to one oxygen bar supplier, the customer gets less than 50 percent pure oxygen.

Although breathing these low levels of oxygen may not hurt a healthy person, “people have nothing to gain by frequenting oxygen bars, and subject themselves to unnecessary risk,” says Purucker.

Oxygen and Sports

We’ve all seen it on TV–a football player runs off the field after a play and dons an oxygen mask. “They don’t need it,” says Conrad Earnest, Ph.D., director of exercise physiology at the Cooper Institute in Dallas. “It’s one of the biggest placebo effects going,” he adds. “It’s a combative activity, so yes, the players are going to be out of breath, but it’s because of massive exertion–not because of lack of oxygen.” The exception, says Earnest, might be athletes who play at higher elevations than they are used to, and don’t have time to acclimate. “If the New York Giants go to play the Washington Redskins, the benefit of oxygen–if any–would be so small it wouldn’t be measurable. But if they go to play the Denver Broncos–going from sea level to a mile-high altitude–they may be helped by oxygen while recovering from a play.”

And products with added oxygen, such as oxygenated water, sports drinks, and skin sprays don’t impress Earnest, who refers to their suppliers as putting “sales before science.” “If you drink oxygenated water, either the water passes through the gut and has no effect, or the acid in the stomach reacts with it and the only effect of the oxygen is that it will cause you to burp more,” he says.

The Air Up There

Atmospheric pressure decreases as altitude increases, making it more difficult to breathe. But people living at high altitudes do adapt to their environment without using additional oxygen, says Mary Purucker, M.D., Ph.D., a Food and Drug Administration pulmonary specialist. “The blood becomes more efficient at transporting oxygen to tissues.”

Contact Your Local Fire Marshal regarding their jurisdictions storage requirements of Oxygen in a Public Assembly Location!

 

Solar Panels Growing Hazard for Firefighters

Concerns over electrocution and a lack of roof access hampered firefighting efforts at Dietz & Watson blaze
By Vince Lattanzio |  Tuesday, Sep 3, 2013

Firefighters battling the massive 11-alarm blaze at the Dietz & Watson distribution center in South Jersey faced an unlikely foe during the fight — solar panels.

A solar array with more than 7,000 photovoltaic panels lined the roof of the nearly 300,000 square-foot refrigeration facility which served as a temporary storage center for the company’s deli meats and cheeses. But the panels, while environmentally sustainable and cost-saving, may have led to the complete destruction of the warehouse.

Fighting the fire under bright blue skies Sunday, Delanco Fire Chief Ron Holt was forced to keep firefighters from attacking the blaze from the roof because of electrocution concerns.

“With all that power and energy up there, I can’t jeopardize a guy’s life for that,” said Holt. Those electrocution fears combined with concerns of a collapse forced firefighters to simply spray the building with water and foam from afar.

Ken Willette from the National Fire Protection Association, a nonprofit that develops standards for firefighting, says electrocution is one of the hazards firefighters are increasingly facing fighting blazes at structures where solar panels are deployed.

“Those panels, as long as there’s any kind of light present, whether it’s daylight or it’s electronic lamp light, will generate electricity,” he said.

A 2011 study from the Underwriters Laboratory found solar panels, being individual energy producers, could not be easily de-energized from a single point like other electric sources. Researchers recommended throwing a tarp over the panels to block light, but only if crews could safely get to the area.

“Very often they’re not wired like your home, where you have a master breaker. Even if you turn the breaker off, the panels still generate electricity and you need to cover them and prevent any light from getting into them,” Willette said.

Flooding a roof with solar panels also presents access issues that can stop firefighters from making ventilation holes used to extinguish the fire.

Willette says the issues force firefighters to take a defensive approach to fighting the flames by staying away from the building – rather than going inside and attacking the fire source.

“It definitely impedes the firefighting operation and any time you impede firefighting operation, you slow down suppression efforts,” he said.

From 2010 through 2012, photovoltaic solar panel installations have jumped nearly 300-percent, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Forecasts show the trend will continue to increase sharply through 2017. The SEIA also says New Jersey has the second highest solar capacity in the United States.

With the continued growth of solar panels and other alternative energies, Willette says code officials, builders and developers need to work with local fire departments to ensure installations are designed with firefighting in mind.

“The new paradigm is firefighters might encounter building systems they have little or no knowledge of,” Willette said. “It used to be homes and commercial buildings had roofs and walls and heating and ventilation systems that the fire service was used to dealing with…modern technology, both in building construction and these other alternative energy systems, have changed that.”

Source: NBC 10 Philadelphia

 

CSB Chair Calls for Regulatory Coverage of Reactive Chemicals Following the West Fertilizer Explosion and Fire

Washington, DC, August 20, 2013 – In a new video safety message released today, CSB Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso calls for regulatory coverage of reactive chemicals following the massive ammonium nitrate explosion that killed at least 14 people and devastated the town of West, Texas, on April 17, 2013. Reactive chemicals, like ammonium nitrate, can undergo potentially hazardous chemical reactions, such as violently detonating, if not managed properly.

 

The safety message includes testimony from Chairperson Moure-Eraso during a hearing about the West accident before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. At that hearing, held on June 27, 2013, Chairperson Moure-Eraso said, “The destruction I personally saw at West – the obliteration of homes, schools and businesses by an ammonium nitrate explosion – was almost beyond imagination.” 

 

As noted in the video, the CSB has determined that ammonium nitrate storage falls under a patchwork of U.S. standards and guidance, which does not prohibit many of the conditions found at the West facility. These include the use of combustible wooden storage bins and buildings and a lack of sprinkler systems in case of fire. 

 

Chairperson Moure-Eraso stated, “The fertilizer industry tells us that U.S. sites commonly store ammonium nitrate in wooden buildings and bins – even near homes, schools or other vulnerable facilities.  This situation must be addressed.” 

 

The video safety message concludes, “The CSB believes it’s past time for OSHA and EPA to regulate reactive hazards – including ammonium nitrate – under their process safety rules.”

 

In a 2002 study, the CSB called on OSHA and the EPA to expand their standards to include reactive chemicals and hazards, but to date neither agency has acted on the recommendations.  During the Senate hearing, Chairman Moure-Eraso said, “Ammonium nitrate would likely have been included, if the EPA had adopted our 2002 recommendation to cover reactive chemicals under its Risk Management Program. And OSHA has not focused extensively on ammonium nitrate storage and hadn’t inspected West since 1985.”

 

The safety message goes on to describe other serious reactive chemical accidents investigated by the CSB since its 2002 study.  These include a December 19, 2007, explosion and fire at T2 Laboratories in Jacksonville, Florida; a January 31, 2006, explosion at the Synthron chemical manufacturing facility in Morganton, North Carolina; and an April 12, 2004, toxic release at MFG Chemical in Dalton, Georgia.

 

The safety message can be viewed on CSB.gov, the CSB’s safety message channel on YouTube, www.youtube.com/safetymessages, and the CSB’s Facebook page for the West explosion, www.facebook.com/westexplosion.

 

The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. The agency’s board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems.

 

The Board does not issue citations or fines but does make safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA. Visit our website, http://www.csb.gov.

 

For more information, contact Communications Manager Hillary Cohen, cell 202-446-8094 or Sandy Gilmour at 202-251-5496 or email the CSB Public Affairs Department at public@csb.gov

Addressing Safety Challenges for Disabled Workers – “How Do You Get Through Your Day?”

Richie Parker, HMS Engineer -“How Do You Get Through Your Day?” – Video Courtesy of Hendrick Motorsports® ESPN®

Employees in today’s workplace face many challenges. Work forces have been cut, and in many cases, workdays have been extended. Older workers are unable to retire, while younger workers are unable to find work. New technology is introduced into the workplace, requiring all to relearn how to perform their jobs. This is difficult for the average worker, but it is extremely difficult if an employee is further hindered by disabilities.

Disabilities of all types affect employees and can pose various mental or physical challenges. In many situations, a disability may impact the amount of time it takes for an employee to complete a task or get from one part of a facility to another. Some disabilities may be known while others remain unknown to an employer. Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employees with disabilities can continue to work without fear of losing their jobs1.

All employees with disabilities deserve the right to support their families. If otherwise qualified for a job, a disability should not take away an individual’s opportunity to work. Existing laws protected those discriminated against for race, sex, national origin and color, but the ADA was the first law to speak for those with disabilities in the workplace.

The ADA disallows discrimination against otherwise qualified individuals in an employment setting because of mental or physical disabilities2. This means that in many situations, the employer has to adjust a work environment to allow an employee to function. In 2009, the ADA was amended to include additional information and coverage. This amendment required the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to make changes to their regulations regarding the term “substantially limits” and how it is defined2. It also broadens the definition of “major life activities” to include many new activities.

Workplace Adaptations

As with any law that changes the workplace, some fight or avoid it while others fully embrace and promote it. One major compliance concern deals with accessibility. Because of this, many workplaces have adjusted or created more accessible entrances and exits to their facilities, allowing more independence for persons in wheelchairs. Other subtle changes may include the height of water fountains, width of bathroom stalls, hand rails inside the stalls and long ramps instead of stairs. The path of travel that employees take should never be obstructed; there should be no barriers to prevent someone from getting to safety in an emergency3.

Making accommodations in the workplace is important, yet one must avoid making a spectacle of employees with disabilities. One concept being utilized in workplaces is universal design, which is best defined as designing products and work spaces to allow use by everyone, regardless of disability4. This eliminates many cases of employees standing out or requiring special assistance to be able to complete their tasks. Better designed work spaces can increase function for all employees, regardless of age4. This still is a relatively new idea and few examples exist in the workplace despite multiple studies proving the effectiveness.

The goal is to remove all barriers and allow everyone to concentrate on completing job tasks.

Workstations easily can be adapted to follow this universal design. Many companies now use slide-out keyboard trays and monitors on swinging arms to allow employees to adjust to their needs. Desks can accommodate wheelchairs in place of regular chairs, and general work spaces can be lowered to allow easier access. All workplaces eventually will follow the universal design approach3. The main goal is to remove all barriers and allow everyone to concentrate more on completing their tasks.

The biggest challenge with universal design is accommodating the multitude of challenges that different disabilities present. Not all disabilities are the same, and not all will present the same challenges for employees. Some employees may have issues with their right hand while others have issues with their left. For some, it may involve not being able to stand or sit. Some may need low lighting, while others need bright lighting. Designing a facility to accommodate all is always going to be a challenge.

Some disabilities require a service animal to be able to get around or reach materials. ADA protects those that need such animals. This can create another complication for an employer if other employees are allergic to such animals. The employer must work with all parties involved to find a solution.

Companies using older facilities often have the most trouble complying with guidelines of the ADA. Designing a building from the ground up is much easier than attempting to retrofit existing facilities. Some of the complications with retrofitting facilities include adding adequate doorways. Depending on the design of the structure, adding doorways can be complicated and require an extensive amount of remodeling. Other complications include retrofitting areas with stairs and restrooms with stalls that are too narrow. Moving plumbing may require the existing floor to be torn out and require a lot of time.

Read the remainder of the story here: http://ehstoday.com/safety/addressing-safety-challenges-disabled-workers

Source: EHS Today®

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