An ounce of prevention: what you can do ahead of time to keep workers safe

Many times when a serious or fatal accident occurs, the tragedy is amplified by the fact that it could have easily been prevented. This is true of a recent incident that turned the holidays into a tragic time for the families of three Dallas workers who lost their lives.

The three men were subcontractors hired to clean a 30-foot-deep storage tank in Dallas’ Thanksgiving Tower. The man with the most experience (two years on the job) was using a torch to cut away rusted components from the tank when a spark suddenly ignited a flash fire, which triggered an explosion. The building’s power went out, likely due to the explosion, causing their co-workers to be unable to use the mechanical lift to pull the men from the tank.

There are many proactive measures that could have been taken to prevent this accident, from training employees to feel empowered to make critical decisions to ensuring that work environments are safe. This accident is representative of how a typical work day can turn tragic if safety preparation isn’t made ahead of time.

General safety tips

Every employer, regardless of injury, can learn valuable lessons from this tragedy:

– Train new employees on safety procedures before you let them start working.

– Hold subcontractors and temporary employees to the same safety standards as permanent employees.

– Provide regularly scheduled refresher training to long-time employees.

– Empower your employees to stop any operation they feel is unsafe.

– Do not send employees to clients’ job sites if you feel their safety is at risk.

Incident-specific safety tips:

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is investigating the Thanksgiving Tower accident, so we do not know all of the details. But here are some general safety tips that apply to hot work, confined spaces and flash fires:

– Remember that some city fire codes require employers to get special permits to perform hot work. Even if yours does not, OSHA
encourages every employer to develop its own hot work permit system. Click here for a sample hot work permit.

– Train employees to work in confined spaces. Training should include evacuation procedures in the event of an emergency.

Test for flammable gases and other chemicals in the atmosphere before starting hot work.

– Separate hot work from flammable material. If that is not possible, use guards to confine the heat, sparks and slag, and to protect the immovable fire hazards.

– Make fire-extinguishing equipment, such as pails of water, buckets of sand, hoses and portable extinguishers immediately available and ready to use.

– Appoint a “fire watch” who is armed with fire-extinguishing equipment and is trained to use it. The fire watch should continue observing the work site for at least 30 minutes after completion of welding or cutting operations to detect and extinguish smoldering fires.

– Enforce the use of personal protective equipment, which could include fire-retardant clothing, flash suit hoods, insulating gloves, and eye, face and respiratory protection.

Resources

OSHA’s Welding, Cutting and Brazing Web page

OSHA’s Welding, Cutting and Brazing Standard

National Fire Protection Association Hot Work Voluntary Standard

Confined Spaces Quick Card

 

Source: Texas Mutual Workers’ Compensation Insurance

How More Women in Security Field Benefits Industry

The security industry is commonly regarded as a field dominated by men, often equipped with military or law enforcement experience. However an increasing number of women are gaining interest in the field given the robust opportunity available.

One of the most attractive features of the security industry is the inherent duty of helping keep people safe. Upon her first few years at American Alarm, Maria Moretti explains what captivated her about her role in security. “There was great satisfaction in everything that I did because I was helping people all day long,” she said. “I just got drawn into that daily act of helping people, whether it was answering panic signals during a robbery at a bank, or if there was a smoke carbon monoxide alarm, and we needed to keep people safe.”

Both men and women alike can find great satisfaction in knowing that their role in society is to help others and to keep people safe. As more women are finding this opportunity, students or persons looking for a career change can learn from those who have made it. In learning from the successful in the industry, here are some pieces of advice they offer:

Get Educated

Take advantage of the training programs your company offers. “Basically, learn all you can about the industry regarding the product, codes and protocol regulations for alarm response,” says Maria Moretti, now command center manager at American Alarm. Whether it’s taking a community college course, an online course, or simply reading and absorbing as much information as possible on the internet, the first step to getting into the industry is to come armed with knowledge.

Sharpen Communication Skills

Given the sensitive nature of many tasks within the security sector, excellence in written and verbal communication can translate into leadership opportunities. An example of whom is Eleonora Tumbiolo, a security industry veteran for over 15 years and the District Manager for AlliedBarton Security Services. “Brush up on your communication skills,” advises Tumbiolo. “While women tend to be good communicators, it helps to become comfortable in public speaking which enhances your communication skills with employees, clients and upper management.” In fact to hone in on her own skills, Tumbiolo set out to overcome her fear of public speaking and joined a local chapter of Toastmasters.

Get Involved, Network

Just like any other professional division in the world, networking is a helpful strategy in climbing the ranks of the security industry. Start by asking around at a local college campus or check out local groups who meet regarding the industry. Yet the biggest move is to join your local ASIS (American Society for Industrial Security) International chapter. By participating in an association specifically dedicated to increasing the productivity of security professionals worldwide, you’ll be surrounded by security leaders who can help you learn some of the success strategies they’ve found over the years.

The most successful teams are a blend of the best men and women, allowing industries to utilize the greatest talent and resources available in the business world. As we collectively provide opportunities for those willing to put in the effort to succeed, we will continue to see more women as leaders and managers in both the security and any other job field. Yet the security sector offers unparalleled opportunity and should gain more visibility for young students and those interested in a challenging and rewarding career. A supporter of this idea is Maureen S. Rush, M.S., CPP, Vice President for Public Safety at the University of Pennsylvania who directs the tactical and strategic direction of the Division of Public Safety and over 175 staff members. Rush confirms, “Women should not be caught in the old mythology about what she can or cannot do. Women should know that there is nothing they cannot do if they set their mind to it.”

Source: El Dorado Insurance Agency, Inc.

Tips for Staying Safe at Work

A simple list of things people can do to stay safe at work

  • Keep your purse, wallet, keys, or other valuables with you at all times or locked in a drawer or closet.
  • Check the identity of any strangers who are in your office. If anyone makes you uncomfortable, inform security or management immediately.
  • Don’t stay late if you’ll be alone in the office. Create a buddy system for walking to parking lots or public transportation after hours, or ask a security guard to escort you.
  • Report any broken or flickering lights, dimly lit corridors, broken windows, and doors that don’t lock properly.
  • If you notice signs of potential violence in a fellow employee, report this to the appropriate person. Immediately report any incidents of sexual harassment.
  • Know your company’s emergency plan. If your company does not have such a plan, volunteer to help develop one.
  • If the company does not supply an emergency kit, keep your own emergency supplies (flashlight, walking shoes, water bottle, nonperishable food, etc.) in a desk drawer.
  • If you work at home, in addition to making your home safe and secure, you should hang window treatments that obstruct the view into your office. You don’t want to advertise your expensive office equipment.
  • Review your insurance policy—almost all policies require an extra rider to cover a home office.
  • Mark your equipment with identification numbers, and keep an updated inventory list (with photos, if possible) in a home safe or a bank safe-deposit box. It’s a good idea to keep backups of your work in a secure, separate location as well.
  • Follow the same caution with deliveries and pickups that businesses do. Anyone making a delivery to your home office should be properly identified before you open the door. Do not let the person enter your home.If you own the company, take a hard look at your business—physical layout, employees, hiring practices, operating procedures, and special security risks. Assess the company’s vulnerability to all kinds of crime, from burglary to embezzlement. Follow basic crime prevention principles, and work with local law enforcement to protect your business.

Source: National Crime Prevention Council

Tips to Prevent Identity Theft

Stay informed on how technology affects crime trends, and keep yourself safe from high-tech crimes.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft was the number one fraud complaint during calendar year 2008. And limiting your use of your personal computer may not help much: a study released by Javelin Strategy and Research reported that in 2009 most identity thefts were taking place offline, not online — just the opposite of what many folks might think. One other troubling finding: the study found that 43 percent of all identity thefts are committed by someone the victim knows.

It’s in the newspapers every day and on the news every night. People worry that someone will run up charges on their credit card or fleece their bank account while their back is turned. There is reason to worry. All a thief needs is your Social Security number to commit identity theft. This crime is relatively easy to commit, but investigating and prosecuting it is complex and time-consuming. But once you know the facts and some preventive measures you can take, you can win the fight against identity theft!

Identity thieves commit their crime in several ways:

  • They steal credit card payments and other outgoing mail from private, curbside mailboxes.
  • They dig through garbage cans or communal dumpsters in search of cancelled checks, credit card and bank statements, and preapproved credit card offers.
  • They hack into computers that contain personal records and steal the data.
  • They file a change of address form in the victim’s name to divert mail and gather personal and financial data.

Tips

  • To guard against identity theft, never give out your Social Security number. Treat it as confidential information.
  • Commit all passwords to memory. Never write them down or carry them with you.
  • When using an ATM machine, make sure no one is hovering over you and can see you enter your password.
  • When participating in an online auction, try to pay the seller directly with a credit card so you can dispute the charges if the merchandise does not arrive or was misrepresented. If possible, avoid paying by check or money order.
  • Adopt an attitude of healthy skepticism toward websites that offer prizes or giveaways. Chances are, all that’s been “won” is the opportunity to buy something you didn’t want in the first place.
  • Choose a commercial online service that offers parental control features.
  • Tell your children never to give out their address, telephone number, password, school name, or any other personal information.
  • Make sure your children know to never agree to meet face-to-face with someone they’ve met online without discussing it with you. Only if you decide that it’s okay to meet their “cyber-friend” should they arrange to meet this person, and then the meeting should be in a familiar public place in the presence of a trusted adult.
  • Tell your children never to respond to messages that have bad words, are scary, or just seem weird.
  • Tell your children never to enter an area that charges for services without asking you first.
  • Tell children never send a picture of themselves to anyone without your permission.
  • Make sure that access to the Internet at your children’s school is monitored by adults.

Source: National Crime Prevention Council

Playing it Safe on Halloween: Pointers for Parents

Halloween may be a fun holiday for kids, but for parents, trick-or-treat time can be a little scary. Concerns about children’s safety—whether they are out in the neighborhood or back at home with bountiful bags of goodies—can cast a spell on the evening’s festivities.
But not to worry! Following a few safety tips will ensure that  Halloween will be a “howling” good time for all.

Preparing Ghosts and Goblins for Their Tricks and Treats
  • Make sure older kids go out with friends. Younger children should be accompanied by an adult. If you live in a rural area, offer all kids a ride in the car.
  • Set a time limit for children to trick-or-treat. Together, map out a safe route so you know where they’ll be. Remind them not to take shortcuts through backyards, alleys, or playing fields.
  • Remind kids not to enter a strange house or car.
  • Try to get kids to trick-or-treat while it is still light out. If it is dark, make sure the children are carrying flashlights that work.
Pranks That Can Be a Little Tricky

Halloween is notoriously a night of pranks—toilet papering a house or filling mailboxes with shaving cream are not unusual. Try to get a
handle on your children’s plans before they go out. Explain to them that while you want them to have a good time, some tricks could hurt other people or vandalize property. Emphasize that you disapprove of vandalism.

Eating the Treats
  • Kids need to know not to eat their treats until they get home. One way to keep trick-or-treaters from digging in while they’re still out is to feed them a meal or substantial snack beforehand.
  • Check out all treats at home in a well lighted place.
  • What to eat? Only unopened candies and other treats that are in original wrappers. Don’t forget to inspect fruit and homemade goodies for anything suspicious. By all means, remind kids not to eat everything at once or they’ll be feeling pretty ghoulish for a while.
“Unhaunting” Your House and Neighborhood
  • Welcome trick-or-treaters at home by turning on your exterior lights.
  • Remove objects from your yard that might present a hazard to visitors.
  • Ask your Neighborhood Watch or citizens’ group to patrol the community.
  • Involve students from a local college or university to be “witch’s helpers.” These students help trick-or-treaters cross busy streets and watch out for ghoulish behavior.
  • Drive slowly all evening—you never know what creature may suddenly cross your path.
  • Report any suspicious or criminal activity to your local police or sheriff ’s department.
Consider This

Parents and kids can avoid trick-or-treating troubles entirely by organizing a Halloween costume party with treats, games, contests,
music, scary stories, and much more. Make your Halloween party the place to be! Schools, fire stations, libraries, even malls in many communities organize “haunted houses” and other festivities for families.

Making Safe Costumes
  • Check that costumes are flame-retardant so the little ones aren’t in danger near candlelit jack-o-lanterns and other fire hazards.
  • Keep costumes short to prevent trips, falls, and other bumps in the night.
  • Encourage kids to wear comfortable shoes.
  • Try makeup instead of a mask. Masks can be hot and uncomfortable and, more importantly, they can obstruct a child’s vision—a dangerous thing when kids are crossing streets and going up and down steps.
  • Make sure kids wear light colors or put reflective tape on their costumes.
Dressed Up and Dangerous?

Halloween blood and gore are harmless stuff for the most part. But sometimes dressing up as a superhero, a scary monster, or a slimy alien from outer space—coupled with the excitement of Halloween—brings out aggressive behavior. Even fake knives, swords, and guns can accidentally hurt people. If these objects are part of a child’s costume, make sure they are made from cardboard or other flexible materials. Better yet, challenge kids to create costumes that don’t need “weapons” to be scary and fun.

Source: National Crime Prevention Council

What Parents Can Do to Keep Kids Safe at School

For most of the year, children spend more time at school than anywhere else other than their own home. At school, children need a secure, positive, and comfortable environment to help them learn.

Overall, schools are one of the safest places children can be. However, some schools have problems, such as bullying and theft, which make them less secure. These problems make students and educators feel less safe, and it makes it harder for students to learn and for teachers to do their jobs.

But there are specific ways that parents can make going to school a safer and more valuable learning experience for their children.

In the Classroom

Kids need a safe and comfortable environment to learn to the best of their capabilities. This means they have to feel safe in their school and be able to positively interact with their teachers and classmates. By doing the following, parents and other adults can help make sure children have a positive school experience.

  • Talk to your children about their day. Sometimes children won’t tell you right away if they are having problems at school. Ask your children if they see anyone bullied, if they are bullied, or if anything else makes them feel uncomfortable. Look for warning signs, such as a sudden drop in grades, loss of friends, or torn clothing.
  • Teach children to resolve problems without fighting. Explain that fighting could lead to them getting hurt, hurting someone else, or earning a reputation as a bully. Talk to them about other ways they can work out a problem, such as talking it out, walking away, sticking with friends, or telling a trusted adult.
  • Keep an eye on your children’s Internet use. Many elementary schools have computers with Internet access. Ask your children’s school if students are monitored when they use the Internet or if there is a blocking device installed to prevent children from finding explicit websites. Talk to your children about what they do online – what sites they visit, who they email, and who they chat with. Let them know they can talk to you if anything they see online makes them uncomfortable, whether it’s an explicit website or a classmate bullying them or someone else through email, chat, or websites.
  • Ask about the safety and emergency plans for your children’s school. How are local police involved? How are students and parents involved? What emergencies have been considered and planned for?

Traveling To and From School

  • Map out with your children a safe way for them to walk to school or to the bus stop. Avoid busy roads and intersections. Do a trial run with them to point out places they should avoid along the way, such as vacant lots, construction areas, and parks where there aren’t many people.
  • Teach children to follow traffic signals and rules when walking or biking. Stress that they should cross the street at crosswalks or intersections with crossing guards when they can.
  • Encourage children to walk to school or the bus stop with a sibling or friend, and to wait at bus stops with other children.
  • Teach children not to talk to strangers, go anywhere with them, or accept gifts from them without your permission. Tell them that if they see a suspicious stranger hanging around or in their school they should tell an adult.
  • Help children memorize their phone number and full address, including area code and zip code. Write down other important phone numbers such as your work and cell phone on a card for your children to carry with them.

On the bus

  • Have your children arrive at the bus stop at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to pick them up.
  • Make sure children know to stand on the sidewalk or on the grass while waiting for the bus.
  • Teach children to make sure they can see the bus driver and the bus driver can see them before crossing in front of the bus. Tell them to never walk behind the bus.
  • Be aware that often bullying takes place on the school bus. Ask children about their bus – who they sit with, who they talk to, and what the other kids do. Let them know that if they see someone being bullied, or are bullied themselves, they can talk to you, the bus driver, or another trusted adult.

If you’d like to work towards making your children’s schools safer on a larger scale, consider implementing Be Safe and Sound. This campaign provides a model for how parents, students, and school staff can work together to make schools safer and more secure.

Source: National Crime Prevention Council

Protect Yourself From Violent Crime

A list of tips for adults on staying safe:

  • Don’t walk or jog early in the morning or late at night when the streets are deserted.
  • When out at night, try to have a friend walk with you.
  • Carry only the money you’ll need on a particular day.
  • Don’t display your cash or any other inviting targets such as pagers, cell phones, hand-held electronic games, or expensive jewelry and clothing.
  • If you think someone is following you, switch directions or cross the street. If the person continues to follow you, move quickly toward an open store or restaurant or a lighted house. Don’t be afraid to yell for help.
  • Try to park in well-lighted areas with good visibility and close to walkways, stores, and people.
  • Make sure you have your key out as you approach your door.
  • Always lock your car, even if it’s in your own driveway; never leave your motor running.
  • Do everything you can to keep a stranger from getting into your car or to keep a stranger from forcing you into his or her car.
  • If a dating partner has abused you, do not meet him or her alone. Do not let him or her in your home or car when you are alone.
  • If you are a battered spouse, call the police or sheriff immediately. Assault is a crime, whether committed by a stranger or your spouse or any other family member. If you believe that you and your children are in danger, call a crisis hotline or a health center (the police can also make a referral) and leave immediately.
  • If someone tries to rob you, give up your property—don’t give up your life.
  • If you are robbed or assaulted, report the crime to the police. Try to describe the attacker accurately. Your actions can help prevent someone else from becoming a victim.

Source: National Crime Prevention Council

Gas Station Theft Prevention

Recently, there has been increased media coverage across the country regarding theft at gas stations. The unique setting allows thieves to catch their victims by complete surprise — when they are pumping gas or paying their tab inside the station. Most of the time, gas station customers leave their car doors unlocked and items like purses and wallets are often left in plain view. A thief is able to drive up next to the victim’s car, open an unlocked door, and grab any valuables within reach. Then, the thief quickly drives off. It happens in a matter of seconds.

But these thefts can be easily prevented if the appropriate precautions are taken. The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) and the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia recommends the following tips to prevent citizens from becoming victims of theft at area gas stations.

  • Pick stations that are well-lit and have video surveillance cameras at the pump.
  • Always remove your keys and lock the doors while you are pumping gas.
  • Keep valuables out of plain view in your vehicle and lock the doors even if you are going inside for a moment.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings.
  • Don’t let your cell phone distract you.

The NCPC blog, Prevention Works, featured an interesting article regarding gas station theft and provided a link to a very informative and helpful video on the subject. Click here to read the article and watch the video.

Source: National Crime Prevention Council

Safe Firearms Storage Campaign

The Safe Firearms Storage campaign encourages firearms owners to make safe firearms storage a priority.  To encourage current and prospective firearm owners to safely lock up their weapons when they’re not in use, the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) created a new public service advertising (PSA) campaign developed in partnership with the Ad Council and funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA).  Read more.

Tempted to text behind the wheel?

The best communicators understand the importance of brevity. The fewer words we use to deliver our message, the less of our audience’s valuable time we take up. With that in mind, Texas Mutual encourages you to invest 30 seconds in watching this short video. It might save your life.

Give safety a hand

Distracted driving is a leading cause of workplace accidents. If you use a cellphone, put on makeup, reach for something in the back seat, or do anything else that takes your attention from the task at hand, you put yourself and other drivers at risk.

 

Visit Texas Mutual’s SafeHandTexas.org for information and free safe driving resources.