Fire Safety: Lessons from NYC’s Deadliest Industrial Accident

On March 25, 1911, workers were filing out of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory inNew York City when someone noticed a small fire in a scrap materials bin. The fire quickly spread out of control, and the factory’s employees frantically sought escape routes. Some were consumed by smoke or fire. Others leaped to their death from the building’s upper floors.

Nearly 150 did not make it out alive.

We have learned a lot about fire awareness and prevention since 1911. The Shirtwaist Factory incident is the rallying cry of fire safety efforts, spurring stricter fire, safety and building codes worldwide. Still, we have a long way to go.

The U.S. Fire Administration notes that there were nearly 1 million fires reported in the United States in 2007. Almost 10,000 people were injured. Another 1,900 lost their lives.

Furthermore, of 25 industrialized nations examined by the World Fire Statistics Center, the United States has the fifth highest death rate resulting from fires.

Employers can help reverse the trend by following a few tips. Every workplace is unique, but all fire safety programs should have at least one thing in common: simplicity.

Plan multiple evacuation routes

Intense heat and the sheer weight of people trying to escape caused the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory’s only evacuation route to collapse, trapping workers inside. The lesson: Plan multiple evacuation routes for every conceivable emergency situation.

Remember that a fire will probably call for a different evacuation procedure than a tornado or a power outage.

Post signs showing approved evacuation routes in all common areas and at exit points, should an alternate exit be needed.

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Incident Analysis: Finding Facts, Not Faults

Every gardener knows you haven’t pulled a weed until you’ve pulled it out by its root. The same logic applies to analyzing workplace accidents and near misses: You must discover the root causes of the incident before you can correct it.

For workplace safety purposes, we describe accidents and near misses under one umbrella term: incidents. Whenever an incident occurs at your workplace, you should conduct a four-step incident analysis to discover and correct its root causes.

Step 1. Gather facts
Start by making it clear that your objective is to correct safety hazards, not assign blame. Don’t use the term “accident investigation.” “Incident analysis” is less threatening and more accurately describes your mission.

Go to the scene of the incident as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the greater the chance that evidence will get tainted or the site will change.

Look for equipment, work conditions and unsafe behaviors that may have contributed to the incident. Interview witnesses before they have time to influence each other’s version of what happened. Try to ask open-ended questions in a non-threatening way.

Texas Mutual offers an incident analysis form you can use to document your findings. You can download it at texasmutual.com/forms/accident_inv.pdf.

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The Eyes Have It. Follow These Tips to Protect Them.

Every day, about 2,000 Americans get medical attention for on-the-job eye injuries, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. More than 100 of those injuries cause them to miss work.

Workplace hazards that can affect the eyes include chemicals that splash or give off harmful vapors; dust and glare that limit vision; and flying objects resulting from sanding, carpentry, sawing and drilling.

Texas Mutual safety professionals recommend employers follow these tips to keep their employees seeing clearly.

Eliminate hazards

Eliminating hazards is the best way to prevent accidents:

  • Add equipment guards, screens and shields
  • Install a ventilation system to remove dust, vapors and mists
  • Keep the work area clean to reduce dust
  • Fasten lids on chemical containers to prevent splashing

 Provide PPE

Personal protective equipment (PPE) includes safety glasses, goggles, face shields, welding helmets, filter lenses and other equipment that provides a barrier between your employees and the hazards they encounter.

Each type of PPE is designed to protect employees against specific hazards:

  • Look for PPE suggestions on Material Safety Data Sheets and the instructions for operating machinery and equipment.
  • Make sure PPE fits, is comfortable and does not limit peripheral vision
  •  Keep PPE clean and in good condition. Inspect it before use for scratches, cracks and other signs of wear.

 If employees wear glasses or contacts, consider providing:

  • Safety glasses with prescription lenses (the frame and lenses must be approved by the American National Standards Institute)
  • Goggles or face shields designed to be worn over glasses

 Prepare for injuries

If you eliminate hazards and provide the right PPE, you can limit your employees’ exposure to eye injuries. Still, accidents can happen. You should be prepared to get prompt care for the employee:

  • Provide emergency eyewash stations in all areas with risks from flying particles or chemicals
  • Check the Material Safety Data Sheet for first aid instructions on each chemical you use. Post these instructions near employees who use chemicals.
  • If a chemical splashes in an employee’s eyes, flush the eyes and face with water for at least 15 minutes, and then get the employee to a doctor.
  • If a particle gets into an employee’s eye, flush the particle out with clean water right away. Do not rub the eyes; this may cause further damage. If the particle does not rinse out, cover the eye and get the employee to a doctor.

Texas Mutual Rewards Three Safety Groups With $435K in Dividends

Texas Mutual Insurance Company announced today that three workers’ compensation safety groups have earned a combined $435,324 in dividends. The dividends were based largely on each group’s overall loss ratio.

The largest dividend, $261,132, went to the Texas Automotive Safety Group. The group has earned $651,000 in Texas Mutual dividends since 2010.

Members of the Texas Lodging Safety Group earned a $137,587 dividend, nearly doubling their 2011 dividend.

The $36,605 dividend check that went to the Texas Produce Association safety group marked the group’s seventh consecutive Texas Mutual dividend.

Unlike publicly traded insurance companies, mutual insurance companies are owned by their policyholders. Dividends allow Texas Mutual to share its financial success with its policyholder owners.

In addition to potential dividends, safety group members get discounts on their workers’ compensation premiums. They also have access to workplace safety materials designed for their operations.

Texas Mutual notes that past dividends are not a guarantee of future dividends, and the Texas Department of Insurance must approve all dividends.

Introducing Bill Jackson, Our New Underwriting/Marketing Manager in Dallas

Texas Mutual Insurance Company, the state’s leading provider of workers’ compensation insurance, announced today the hiring of Bill Jackson as senior manager of underwriting and marketing in Dallas.

Jackson will be responsible for managing marketing and underwriting policies and procedures in Texas Mutual’s Dallas regional office. In the role, he will focus on building agency relationships, creating revenue and developing staff.

Jackson has more than 20 years of experience in the commercial insurance industry. In prior positions, he was instrumental in adding new revenue streams and aiding in the development of coverages and programs, such as employment practice liability, cyberliability, hotels and restaurants.  Jackson is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma.

Electrical Safety: It’s Not Just for the Pros

Look around your workplace. If you’re on a construction site, you probably see power saws, drills and other electrical tools. If you’re in an office, you’re surrounded by computers, telephones and coffee pots.

The point is that regardless of your industry, you use equipment that runs on electricity. If you do not have safety procedures in place, that equipment can cause serious workplace injuries, up to and including death. The most common emergencies associated with electricity are shocks, burns, fires and explosions.

Electricians are trained to avoid the risks associated with working around electricity. The rest of us can follow a few simple tips to stay safe on the job.

 

Inspect and maintain equipment

Damaged or malfunctioning equipment increase your employees’ risk of getting injured. Before using power tools, cords and other equipment, make sure it is in good condition.

  • Check tools for broken casings, as well as loose screws, nuts, bolts and moveable parts.
  • Inspect power cords for exposed wires, cracked casing, and bent or broken prongs.
  • Make sure receptacle outlets are not cracked or broken, and have cover plates in place.
  • Ensure breaker panels have covers, and breakers are labeled.
  • Keep equipment clean and lubricated.

Practice safe behaviors

The safest way to do the job is not always the easiest way or the quickest way. Unfortunately, shortcuts get people injured. Every employee should understand that the company expects them to practice safe behaviors:

  • Understand which tasks require insulated gloves, metal-free shoes, hard hats rated for electricity and other personal protective equipment, and wear that equipment every time you do those tasks.
  • Stop using damaged and malfunctioning equipment immediately, and report it to a supervisor. Tag this equipment as “Damaged—Do Not Use” so others don’t get injured.
  • Remember that electricity flows easily through metal and water. Avoid using electrical tools in wet conditions. Remove metal jewelry, and do not use metal ladders or tools near power lines or other sources of electricity.
  • Follow the company’s lockout/tagout procedures. If you do not know the procedures, ask your supervisor.
  • Keep at least 10 feet between you and overhead power lines, per federal regulations. Additional minimum clearance is required for power lines carrying over 50,000 volts.
  • Respect high-voltage warning signs and barricades.

Be prepared

Prompt, calm actions save lives in emergencies. Electrical shocks and burns are no exception. Everyone should know how to respond if a co-worker is in danger:

  • Create an emergency preparedness plan that includes procedures for reporting emergencies, getting medical attention for victims, evacuating the building and safely maintaining critical operations.
  • Ask for volunteer first responders (VFRs). VFRs should be trained in emergency response procedures, including CPR and other basic first aid.
  • Clearly mark the locations of escape routes, first aid kits, emergency defibrillators and fire extinguishers. Before you use a fire extinguisher, check the label to ensure it is safe to use on electrical fires.
  • Stay calm if you call 9-1-1. Make sure you know the address where the emergency happened. Let the operator guide the conversation, and respond clearly and calmly. If possible, stay with the victim while you are on the phone.

The most serious consequence of any workplace accident is the human cost of pain and suffering. Businesses also have to consider the impact accidents have on productivity and employee morale. Working together, employers and their employees can create an environment in which workplace accidents are not an inevitable consequence of doing business.

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