Monday, February 25, 2008

Safety Management Forums

Here's a nice web site forum for safety management, open discussions on safety issues, and a great resource for accident prevention information.

Utility Safety and Training Professionals now have a place to conduct online discussions with their peers from around the country. Simply take a minute to register (there is no charge) and make a first post to what will be a vital industry communications resource.

Safety Management

Our growing community of utility safety and training professionals is just beginning to share their job knowledge and experiences online. Please register to participate in our online discussion or simpy bookmark the site as your resource for information.

I thank you in advance for your part in building the Incident Prevention online community. Please email me if you have any ideas/concerns/comments on how we can improve our website.
Stay Safe and Have a Great Day!

Carla Housh

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Construction leads again in on-the-job deaths

By Lauren Barrera, as posted on

Although the overall amount of fatal work injuries in the United States decreased in 2006, the construction industry saw an increase and accounted for more fatalities than any other industry.

The construction industry had 1,226 on-the-job deaths, up 2.8 percent from 1,192 in 2005 according to a new report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the fatality rate for construction actually decreased in 2006 to 10.8 per 100,000 workers from 11.1 in 2005. The decrease is due to an increasing number of workers in the industry, which rose from 10.3 million in 2004 to 11.4 million in 2006.

The BLS says that fatalities among electricians, roofers, painters and drywall and ceiling tile installers rose while the total decreased for carpenters, construction trade helpers, plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters.

The total number of on-the-job deaths in the United States was 5,703, down slightly from 5,734 in 2005. The fatality rate also decreased slightly in 2006 to 3.9 per 100,000 workers from 4.0 in 2005. The overall U.S. fatality rate in 2006 was the lowest since the fatality census began in 1992.

Monday, February 11, 2008

More training needed for crane operators

  • Crane operators don't have certification requirements, but hairdressers do.
    Special to the Journal

    crane tip-over
    Photos courtesy of Ronald Cowper
    Poor set-up accounts for over 60 percent of all crane tip-overs.

    U.S. Department of Labor statistics indicate that from 1984 to 1997 construction fatalities averaged about 1,150 individuals a year, of which crane-related fatalities averaged about 50 a year.

    It was perceived that with the introduction of voluntary operator certification across the country, job-site safety, at least in the area of crane operation, would be greatly improved and the number of crane-related accidents would show a significant decline. In the period from 1997 to 2000, when it was too early in the certification process to properly evaluate any noticeable change in the pattern, crane-related fatality statistics remained consistent with the previous years.

    With thousands of operators across the country currently NCCCO certified and more public agencies endorsing the certification program, one would tend to believe that, as OSHA suggests, “certification is having a significant and positive impact” in reducing crane accidents. However, information provided by, a Web site that monitors accidents, injuries and fatalities worldwide, indicates that from the beginning of 2000 to the end of 2003 the average number of crane-related fatalities in the United States had actually risen to 55.5 per year. also reported that in 2003 alone 60 workers died in crane-related accidents while another 60 were injured in about 200 reported incidents. By the end of February 2004, the Web site reported that there have already been 15 crane-related fatalities, which is on pace for another above average year.

    How can this be? What could be wrong with the system?

    Crane operator certification

    I have always been a firm supporter of certification for crane operators, but I, as well as many others, believe that the criteria for obtaining that certification needs to be more stringent.

    Cranes have become more complicated and versatile, and individuals who are required to work around them have the right to expect that the people operating them are well trained, knowledgeable and highly skilled.

    I do not believe the 1,000 hours of experience, with no specific training requirements, that is required to obtain CCO certification is sufficient to provide the experience base that a fully qualified crane operator needs to be able to make many of the varied and sometimes critical decisions. Good operators will tell you that, while the less qualified ones aren't about to fight to have the system changed.

    Crane accidents cause damage, injury and death.

    I also believe that the quality and amount of actual training being supplied is inadequate in many cases. There are too many one-, two- and three-day training programs that are geared to those less skilled individuals who just want enough knowledge to be able to pass the written test.

    By comparison Ontario, Canada, has had voluntary crane operator certification for almost 100 years that became compulsory in 1983. Also, Canada has had a National Crane Operator Certification and Apprenticeship program since 1999 that requires a minimum of 2,000, 4,000 or 6,000 hours of hands-on experience and classroom training, depending on provincial requirements and the crane classification being applied for.

    We know this system works because Canada's exceptionally low accident and fatality rate is envied around the world.

    When I was first asked to conduct crane operator training in Washington state in 1993, it was with the expectation that compulsory certification was virtually a guarantee. Sadly it was not to be. Surely it makes little sense when plumbers, electricians, auto mechanics and hairdressers, to name a few, are required to be trained and certified but individuals who operate the most expensive and dangerous tool on the jobsite are not.

    Management's responsibility

    It is generally agreed among crane operators that although everyone involved in the lifting operation is interested in completing the job safely, the operators are frequently challenged by supervisors to perform lift procedures that are questionable.

    Crane operators feel that too often jobsite supervisors are either not sufficiently informed in the functions and limitations of the crane or are more focused on getting the job done. Although upper management is most often not directly involved in the day-to-day site operations, any internal safety program must begin at that level or it will be doomed.

    Training needs to be comprehensive and ongoing.

    If management claims to promote safe working practices but tends to look the other way when productivity becomes more important, or when complaints of unsafe practices made to safety committees are not effectively acted upon, employees, including site supervision, may quickly assume that management is not too committed to safety.

    It has been said, “what management permits, management condones.” But if something goes wrong, management will ultimately be held morally, legally and financially responsible for the safety of its project.

    National Safety Council estimates put the cost of one lost-time accident at about $27,000, with punitive damages sometimes ranging into the millions of dollars. Management that is seriously interested in promoting jobsite safety will quickly learn that the money spent on just one lost time accident could easily cover the cost of providing comprehensive and ongoing safety training programs for their operators, site managers and supervisors.

    Without that training and the unqualified backing of management to always do the job with the highest regard for safety, job-site personnel are inclined to continue in their ways, which allows serious crane accidents and death to continue.

    Ron Cowper has been providing crane safety training programs to operators, riggers, site supervisors and Department of Labor compliance officers from across Canada and the United States since 1983.