Cliquish Geese, Safety Search Engines and Noisy Workplaces

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

Like all of his Texas Mutual safety services peers, Al Capps is a veritable search engine of environmental health and safety information.

Want to know the most effective methods for treating and handling wastewater? Al’s your guy.

Curious how many violations you could face if OSHA showed up at your door? Ask Al, who inspected workplaces as a representative of the nation’s most high-profile workplace safety agency.

Perhaps the most important lesson Al has learned during his diverse career, however, has nothing to do with fall protection or electrical hazards.

“I had been laid off, and I was having trouble finding a job a few years back,” remembered Al. “I started volunteering at a local zoo to fill time, and they offered me a job. We had a sick goose, and one of my responsibilities was to give him his medication every day.”

Sounds innocuous enough, right? After all, it’s not like Al’s boss asked him to take the lion for his daily walk. Still, the task wasn’t without challenges.

“I had to catch the goose first, and he was pretty fast,” said Al, “but that was only half the battle. Once I had him, his pen-mate would run over and start attacking me. I guess he was taking up for his buddy.”

Who knew? Looks like we can add cliquish geese to the list of occupational hazards associated with working in a zoo.

Al’s zoo-keeping days are in his rear view mirror, as are thousands of miles of Central Texas Hill Country. Today, he spends 99 percent of his time on the road, teaching employers how to prevent workplace accidents.

Hearing loss is the most common work-related injury in the United States. It affects about 22 million Americans each year and costs businesses $242 million in workers’ compensation benefits.

I recently spent a day tagging along with Al on his visits. With plenty of “windshield time” to look forward to, I seized the opportunity to pick Al’s brain about workplace safety. After all, I’m a corporate writer getting a crash course safety. I need all the nuggets of wisdom I can get, and I got plenty during our first visit.

The policyholder is a demolition company responsible for gutting buildings that are being remodeled. The owner understands the importance of workplace safety, and so do his foremen.

The company has a written safety program, and new employees get an up-close look at it during their first day on the job. When accidents do happen, management investigates them as soon as possible, uncovers root causes and puts preventive measures in place.

It seemed that when it came to safety, this policyholder had all their bases covered. So what could they possibly learn from Al and his writer side-kick? Plenty, it turned out.

In asking questions and learning more about the policyholder’s operations, it occurred to Al that their employees might be exposed to noise levels that exceed regulatory thresholds. The foreman had never thought of that, and he assured Al he would take measurements at some of his job sites.

In the grand scheme of workplace hazards, it can be easy to overlook occupational noise. But hearing loss is the most common work-related injury in the United States. It affects about 22 million Americans each year and costs businesses $242 million in workers’ compensation benefits.

The bad news is that once you lose your hearing, you can’t get it back. The good news is that hearing loss is preventable.

As a hack musician, I’ve always got my ears open for tips on preventing hearing loss. So I dug a little deeper. In tomorrow’s post, I’ll share tips for making sure your employees hear your message about noise exposure.

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