What I learned from An Inconvenient Truth

I first learned about protecting the environment in sixth grade. At that time, the focus was on not polluting the planet. Near the end of that year, I earned first place in pollution prevention poster contest. For the rest of my life, I kept that interest in protecting the environment. My awareness was raised to a higher level when I lived in Germany where reducing exhaust from vehicles and recycling were a part of the culture. As an adult, I even managed environmental protection programs in a few of my jobs.

To keep myself abreast of the field I read books and watched documentaries when I got the chance. In 2006 Al Gore made a very slick documentary titled An Inconvenient Truth. This documentary that won the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Documentary, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Song, and the American Cinema Editors Guild Best Edited Documentary.  Furthermore, in 2007 Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change received the Nobel Prize. Al Gore won the award for his tireless campaign to put the climate crisis on the political agenda. I saw that, at least in part, as making the documentary. Many people I knew watched the documentary myself included.

I thought it was the best documentary I had ever seen. The documentary was a dramatic improvement over the old documentaries that were often dull and monotone. I was surprised at the way the director kept the emotions high using events from Gore’s life to raise emotions.

However, no documentary can stand on the quality of presentation and flashy camera work alone. There needs to be some truth there. To prepare for this blog post, I watched An Inconvenient Truth again. One chart at the beginning stood out to me. It was a quote from Mark Twain that I paraphrase here “What gets us into trouble is what we know that just ain’t’ so.”

This quote stood out because there are several things that Al Gore refers to that simply are not true or accepted as fact:

  • The most obvious to me is was that Gore speaks as if man made CO2 is the cause of warmer temperatures. I have done a lot of research, and there is considerable disagreement as to how much man-made CO2 affects the environment.
  • Another was the connection with the rise in temperature and CO2. There is conflicting agreement with some sources saying the increase in temperatures come first then the CO2 which is the opposite of Gore’s claims.
  • Gore spoke of an increase in hurricanes and their strength. That has not happened.
  • Gore inferred that global warming caused Hurricane Katrina. Experts disagree on any connection between the two.
  • There was also the note that there were no articles in peer reviewed journals that denied global warming. That in and of itself should have been a red flag. I am not aware of very many topics in science that have zero opposition. Information has come out that editors of peer reviewed journals do not accept for publication articles that question global warming.
  • Gore also said that small groups of people deny global warming. Those small groups add up to about half the scientific community.
  • Gore also raised the issue of scientists who were punished for supporting global warming. What I see are scientists punished for not supporting global warming.

Despite my disagreements with the documentary, I learned a valuable lesson. If you want people to accept and listen to safety, occupational health, and environmental protection messages you have to dress them up as Gore did. Many people watched this documentary. How many watched your last workplace video or even noticed your recent poster? First make sure your videos and posters are correct then make them slick or flashy and I think more will notice.

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Management Must Control Hazards

In today’s market place there is an emphasis on rebuilding or redefining companies and organizations so they are lean, cost effective, and capable of competing in the world economy. As businesses change to meet this new challenge it is essential that steps be taken to eliminate or control the hazards in the work place to eliminate accidents and the waste that follows them. If a business is to be competitive all waste must be controlled and eliminated. In this blog entry, I will highlight the management approach to controlling hazards.

The management approach to controlling and eliminating hazards is not a new one; however, it does not seem to get the attention it deserves. This may be due to the impact that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has on the way U.S. businesses prevent accidents. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is compliance oriented and implements the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which requires businesses to provide, in as much as possible, a safe and healthful working environment for the employees of the organization. The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations spell out the requirements of a compliance based program. This compliance approach is directly opposed to a management approach.

Management inefficiencies and deficiencies are the primary cause of hazards that lead to accidents and near misses. Logically, this means that a management approach to controlling these hazards will be the most effective way to correct inefficiencies and deficiencies within the management systems that cause hazards. Management should care about controlling and eliminating these hazards because the costs of accidents and near misses can increase the price of products or services provided by an organization. This often leads to increased cost of products or services, reduced profits, and lost customers.

The way in which the Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides for the safety of the U.S. labor force is but one way in which an organization can prevent accidents. In recent years the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has worked on a management application; however, this is in the preliminary stages. A second and more result oriented approach is the management of hazards through the use of current management system in place within the organization. Hazard Control Management is what this approach is often called. There are organizations who have advocated this approach for many years. The National Safety Management Society and the International Board for the Certification of Safety Managers (former Board of Hazard Control Management) are two of the more well-known.

In addition to the organizations that advocate a Hazard Control Management program, there are professionals who have written about this approach.  Harold Gordon, former Executive Director of the Board of Hazard Control Management, Jim Tweed Executive Director of the International Board for Certification of Safety Managers, and the late William C. Pope are three of the better known. In spite of the written works that have expounded this approach and the organizations that support it, there is little said or done about Hazard Control Management.

What is Hazard Control Management? It is the use of current management systems within an organization to identify, control or eliminate the hazards that would cause accidents within the workplace. You could expand this answer to include waste from bad quality. This approach uses the language and applications that management is most familiar with. Management also understands how to control business with management systems and in turn will better understand the use of these systems to prevent accidents. This is better than what is occurring in many businesses where the manager does not fully understand how and why the safety program within the organization works.

I am most familiar with the book “A Management Approach To Hazard Control Management,” written by Harold Gordon. In section one “What is Hazard Control Management” he introduces the reader to the approach of management of hazard control and the principals that make it such a dynamic approach. Controlling or eliminating hazards through management control can make a real difference in how a business controls and eliminates the hazards that cause accidents and their costs. These costs can be in medical care, compensation, lost business, damaged equipment or perhaps even damage to the business’ reputation. World class organizations can’t afford these costs any longer. If you haven’t already please look into Hazard Control Management today.

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Older Adults need our help this Summer

Each year I read about older adults who died from the heat. It is saddest when I hear that many of them died alone in apartments with all the windows closed, no fan, or air conditioning. Many that die do not have friends or relatives that can help. What can we do to prevent older adults from dying in hot weather?

Before we can help we need to understand that older adults are more prone to heat stress. According to the Center for Disease Control “older adults do not adjust as well as young people to sudden changes in temperature. Older adults are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat. Older adults are more likely to take prescription medicines that affect the body’s ability to control its temperature or sweat (Older, 2017).

It is important for neighbors, family, and friends to check up on older adults. You can help them by paying attention to the local news for weather updates and keeping an eye out for heat warnings. You can also provide an older adult with fans or an air conditioner. Many older adults keep their windows shut because of a fear of crime. Check and if that is true providing a window air conditioner may be the best help.

A Place for Mom provides recommendations for older adults to prevent heat injuries and death. These include (Elder, 2017):

  • Drink Plenty of Liquids. Dehydration is the root of many heat related health problems. Drink plenty of water or juice, even if you’re not thirsty. But remember to avoid alcoholic or caffeinated beverages, as they can actually contribute to dehydration.
  • Wear Appropriate Clothes. An old Swedish saying says, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad” When it’s hot out, wear light-colored, lightweight, loose-fitting clothes and a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Stay Indoors During Mid-Day Hours. During periods of extreme heat, the best time to run errands or be outdoors is before 10 am or after 6 pm when the temperature tends to be cooler.
  • Take it Easy. Avoid exercise and strenuous activity, particularly outdoors, when it’s very hot
  • Watch the Heat Index. When there’s a lot of moisture in their air (high humidity), the body’s ability to cool itself through sweating is impaired. The heat index factors humidity and temperature to approximate how the how the weather really feels. The current heat index can be found on all popular weather websites and is also usually announced on local TV and radio weather reports during periods of warm weather.
  • Seek Air-conditioned Environments. Seniors whose houses aren’t air-conditioned should consider finding an air-conditioned place to spend time during extreme heat. The mall, library or movie theater are all popular options. During heat waves, many cities also set up “cooling centers,” air-conditioned public places, for seniors and other vulnerable populations. Seniors without convenient access to any air-conditioned place might consider a cool bath or shower.
  • Know the Warning Signs of Heat-related Illness. Dizziness, nausea, headache, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, fainting and breathing problems are all warning signs that help should be sought immediately.

The Center for Disease Control further recommends that if the older adult’ doctor limits the amount of fluids they can drink or has them on water pills, they should ask the doctor how much they should drink during hot weather (Older, 2017).

During this hot summer, please take some time to look out for the older adults in your life. They will appreciate, and it and their life just may depend on it. Today’s Caregiver says that “Elderly people (that is, people aged 65 years and older) are more prone to heat stress than younger people for several reasons (Heat, 2017):

  • Elderly people do not adjust as well as young people to sudden changes in temperature.
  • They are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat.
  • They are more likely to take prescription medicines that impair the body’s ability to regulate its temperature or that inhibit perspiration.

Biography:

Elderly Heat Stroke retrieved on July 15, 2017, from http://www.aplaceformom.com/senior-care-resources/articles/elderly-heat-stroke.

Heat Stress in the Elderly retrieved on July 15, 2017, from http://caregiver.com/articles/heat-stress-elderly/.

Older Adults Heat retrieved on July 15, 2017, from https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/older-adults-heat.html.

 

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Exercise Right in Hot Weather

With the extreme temperatures experienced in the summer months, heat stress injuries are a serious threat. This threat increases when you exercise. Many heat injuries occur during the hottest periods of the day, during periods of physical stress, to personnel who are either not acclimated or just recently acclimated. In spite of water being consumed the injury occurred. That could be because the individual did not consume enough water.

Chart ver 2

It is important to consume water prior to and during exercising. The chart above was borrowed from Fort Jackson and in my opinion, no one does heat injury prevention better than the U.S. Army. When the temperature is between 78 and 81.9 there is no limit on the amount of easy workout a person can do as long as they consume a ½ quart of water per hour.  When the temperature goes above 90 degrees then the person should rest 10 minutes after every 50 minutes of easy workout and consume 1 quart of water per hour.

As with all things, this must be done in moderation. Many people who are exercising are trying to lose weight or might be skipping meals to stay fit. The body needs a balanced diet with all the minerals and nutrients to stay healthy. If one skips meals or doesn’t consume the right diet too much water can be harmful. Too much water can cause a condition known as Hyponatremia or what many refer to as “water intoxication”. The definition of Hyponatremia is a less than normal concentration of sodium in the blood, caused by inadequate excretion of water or by excessive water in the circulating bloodstream. In severe cases, the person may develop confusion and lethargy, leading to muscle excitability, convulsions, coma and possible death.  The symptoms may mimic heat exhaustion.

  • So what can one do to keep hydrated and prevent Hyponatremia? Here are a couple of ideas:
  • Consume no more than 1 1/4 quarts of fluid per hour
  • Daily fluid intake should not exceed 12 quarts per training day
  • Provide electrolyte replacement drinks if possible at meals

Remember to keep track of the number of quarts consumed per hour by using a marker to put a check on the arm.

  • To prevent heat injuries while exercising it is important to:
  • Assess the risk daily and review it as conditions change.
  • Watch the temperature closely and exercise accordingly.
  • Know the signs and symptoms of heat stress injuries, use the buddy system, and raise concerns to your buddy.
  • Risk can be reduced when one is acclimated to the temperature and weather conditions of the area.
  • Ensure that a normal diet is eaten each day and know that drinking too much water can result in harm.
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What do you know about Heat Injury Prevention?

Hot weather is certainly here and with it comes the risk of heat illnesses.  The good news is that these illnesses can be prevented by simple precautions.  These precautions include: drinking plenty of fluids before, during, and after activities; limiting exposure to the sun and heat; avoiding dietary supplements that contain caffeine before exposure to heat, during heavy exercise, or for a prolonged period.  Dietary supplements that contain caffeine may cause the body to get rid of fluids increasing the risk of a heat illness.

Dehydration is the most common of heat illness.  It is caused by a loss of body fluids.  During hot weather, this loss occurs from sweating.  Symptoms include thirst, headaches, and fatigue.  Prevent dehydration by replacing lost body fluids with water.  Some sports drinks are also good to use.  However, reduce or eliminate consumption of coffee, tea, or soft drinks that contain caffeine and alcohol because they may cause the body to get rid of fluid instead of retaining it. First aid is to rest in a cool place and drink water to replenish lost fluids. Always seek medical treatment.

Heat cramps is another heat illness.  These cramps affect the body’s major muscles like the abdomen, thighs, and back.  Heat cramps often occur as a result of prolonged action on a hot day with the loss of body fluids.  Symptoms include sharp pain that is not caused by a pulled or strained muscle and persistent muscle contractions during and after activity.  First aid is to take in fluids (unless the victim is vomiting), loosen clothing, and rest in a shady area. Always seek medical treatment.

Heat exhaustion is a more severe heat illness and can occur when people continue to be active during hot weather and lose a large quantity of body fluid.  Symptoms include light-headedness, fainting, loss of coordination, heavy sweating, pale skin, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, or persistent muscle cramps. First aid is to consume fluids (unless the victim is vomiting), loosen clothing, and rest in a shady area. Always seek medical treatment.

Heat stroke is the most serious heat illness and is considered life threatening.  Symptoms include dizziness, weakness, nausea, headache, cramps, and cold and damp skin.  These symptoms signal a failure of the body’s heat-regulating system. First aid is to obtain emergency medical treatment as quickly as possible.  While waiting for emergency medical treatment give the victim water to drink (unless the victim is vomiting or unconscious), loosen clothing, and rest victim in a shady area.

Heat illnesses are very serious and medical treatment should always be given to a victim. Don’t trust your judgment; let a doctor decide how serious the illness is.

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How do you use hazard awareness material?

Materials are the easiest and cheapest method to raise awareness. Unfortunately, they are also the least effective. This method consists of putting posters on bulletin boards, handing out brochures, giving employees buttons to wear or bumper stickers for their cars, having employees watch videos and presenting safety awards.

To make this method work you must search for and purchase materials that directly address the hazard. Secondly, they must be good quality and for a mixed audience. I define a mixed audience as older and younger workers, native English speakers and non-native English speakers, visually and hearing impaired workers and those with normal vision and hearing, and employees from a variety of cultures. This means that not everyone will respond the same way to awareness material. For example, suppose you have posted an English-only poster on the hazards of eye injuries. A worker that recently emigrated from Mexico may not be able to read and understand the poster. This is likely to prevent him from participating in the awareness. Historically speaking, workers left out like this are the most liable to get hurt. I like posters and banners that show the hazard and preventive measure as well as describe them. This way a non-native English speaker should be able to visually understand the message even if they cannot read the poster.

You can use videos that play in the break room or have short supervisor sessions where employees watch the films as a team. Either way, they must be short with someone present to answer any questions that may come up. Safety award presentations work only if they target a specific hazard. For example, a safe driver when the hazard has been identified as forklifts colliding with shelving.

The message on any awareness material has got to be pithy. It must describe the hazard and recommend a preventive measure in a way that almost everyone can understand. However, I recommend that you stay away from slogans that might confuse people. A good example is the company slogan Safety First. Daily, workers are likely told that production is the priority. This creates a contradiction that may lead employees to believe the slogan is a joke. Make sure slogans are realistic and genuine.

I have used awareness materials for over 20 years, and they have a place in any awareness effort. What I find missing is any attempt to see if they are working. When I use posters, I focus on a hazard. I first check employee behavior for 30 days before putting the posters up. I leave the posters up for thirty days. Then I check the employee behavior after the posters come down to see if the employees faced with the hazard were using the preventive measure the poster recommended. If I find the employee behavior has not changed, the poster failed to accomplish its purpose. You cannot expect 100% success with every poster, but I would work towards improving behavior by at least 60 percent through this type of awareness effort. I report these results of an awareness campaign to management.

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How do you Raise Awareness of Hazard?

Some people think hazard awareness is simply putting up posters and OSHA violations on bulletin boards for employees to see. That is part of it, but if that is all you are doing, you are wasting everyone’s time and money. After hazards are identified and their risk assessed, it is important to make employees aware of the hazards so that they can control or eliminate them before injuries and illnesses occur. Hazard awareness methods consist of materials, actions, and events:

  • Materials consist of posters on bulletin boards, brochures handed out, buttons given to employees to wear, videos to watch, and awards to present.
  • Actions consist of posting OSHA violations and company notices of workplace hazards, experts that speak about the hazard, survivor stories to tell, and game shows to play. Actions are passive in nature and provide an opportunity for employees to read or listen.
  • Events consist of stand-down days, health fairs, using a seat belt demonstrator for employees to ride, and product demonstrations. An event provides opportunities for employees to act. Events are active in nature and provide an opportunity for employees to act.

In my book, “How to Use a Systems Approach to Hazard Inspections” (2017) I explained how to identify hazards. I recommended you review the facility hazard list to start identifying hazards. It is critical that employees are made aware of the hazards noted on this list. You should also identify hazards from accident reports, construction drawings, employee physical requirements, inspection reports, and Job Hazard Analyses. Make a list of all the hazards from these sources that have not been corrected. These are what you want to make employees aware of.

The second thing you should do is identify all the safety days, weeks, and months that are held for hazards that your organization has. I suggest you review these activities and determine which ones apply to your organization.

With this information, you will want to implement a management approach to hazard awareness. Let me address a couple of points you should be aware of up front.

In my book, Basic Safety Administration (2003) I explained that “if you have bilingual or non-native English speaking employees it is essential to provide some awareness material in the language they speak naturally.  My experience proves that providing material in the language a person speaks can not only help them know more about the safety program but also gives them some incentive to become an active supporter of safety.  There is also need to look at the different age groups of employees. Younger employees seem to like active, busy posters and awareness material while older employees seem to like straightforward single message material. Focus your material to a broad audience to reach all or most of your workforce.”

How do you pay for awareness material? You will need a budget. I recommend thirty cents for each employee within the organization. This is a formula that works very well. If you have a high hazard organization, this amount should be one dollar per employee. The key is to effectively spend the money on the hazards that are affecting your processes and personnel. You can also get free material and other support from the community for events.

Bibliography

Fanning, Fred. Basic Safety Administration: A Handbook for the New Safety Specialist. June 2003, American Society of Safety Engineers, 2nd edition, Des Plaines, USA.

Fanning, Fred. How to Use a Systems Approach to Hazard Inspections. Mar 2017, Kindle Direct Publishing, Charleston, USA.

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