From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**list.uvm.edu] On Behalf Of Ernest Lippert
Sent: Wednesday, April 20, 2011 10:07 PM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] 2 Re: [DCHAS-L] Nature News Article: Fatality adds further momentum to calls fo
Division of Chemical Health and Safety
Good grief! Safety training begins at home. Didn’t your mother teach you not to touch the hot stove - or to look both ways before crossing the street? Apparently not. It then becomes incumbent on the mentors (surrogate parents) to enforce common sense on their students and employees who, perhaps unwittingly, have become their charge. Perhaps the mentors themselves lack common sense, thus compounding the problem.
As a result, we have instituted a cadre of “Health and Safety Officers” to enforce a set of rules designed to prevent incidents and accidents that result in personal injury or the loss of property or life. In itself this is not bad; but it is necessary in this current society. In many instances this cadre has proved to be ineffective. Do we have any right, in the light of innumerable academic, industrial, and public accidents/incidents to assert that the HSO’s did not do their job? Perhaps the most important function of the HSO’s (in addition to imposing safe work practices) is to impress upon their superiors the consequences of failing to have adequate and enforceable safety policies in place so that in the case of an accident, blame can be fairly placed.
What is important is that everyone realizes the requirement of common sense. As a society, we apparently forgot its importance. Since it takes a couple of generations to reverse a trend, we are probably condemned by our own stupidity. In its advancement, technology has become more complex and dangerous. Unless we are able to instill common sense in our conduct of technology, we are ultimately doomed. Management, workers, and the populace must work together to regain the common sense so important to society.
It has been a policy of mine not to criticize/complain unless I was able to offer a solution. In this instance I don’t have a comprehensive solution. My best suggestion is to look at institutions that have long-standing exemplary safety records like DuPont. They emphasize good safety practices both at home and at work. How can this be integrated into the common sense that university presidents, corporate CEO’s, or government laboratories must have if they are to competently run their institutions?
On Tue, Apr 19, 2011 at 9:45 PM, Wright, Mike <mwright**At_Symbol_Here**usw.org> wrote:
I've been following this thread with interest, but I've been out of the
country, and doing a lot of traveling in the US, and I haven't really
had the time to contribute until now.
I'm the safety and health director of the union that represents the
majority of unionized North American workers in the chemical, oil,
rubber, metals, paper, non-coal mining, and general manufacturing
industries. We also represent the staff at a number of Canadian
universities. The department I head has a staff of 26. My own training
was in engineering and industrial hygiene. Our staff and I investigate
about 70 serious accidents a year. A number of those involve chemical
hazards, including a refinery fire a year ago that killed 7, and
fatalities over the past three years that involved HF, H2S, mixed
aromatics and liquid wastes from pulping operations.
We've sometimes had the opportunity to go into high school, university
and, of course, industrial labs. In the past we provided internships,
and gotten a few interns from university chemistry programs. I've been
dismayed by how little they've been taught about safety. That also goes
for the chemical engineers hired into industry. We've had to educate
grad students on things like the toxicity of benzene, combustible dust
hazards, vapor cloud explosions and how to use protective equipment. And
some of what we've seen in labs is pretty bad.
Safety requires a number of simultaneous approaches. First, there has to
be rigorous education -- not just a set of rules, but a broad
understanding of the reasons for the rules. We've had people killed who
followed rules they did not fully understand in situations where they
Second, safety culture means a focus on hazard identification and risk
assessment, first using formal tools, but also through a constant
situational awareness. The way to build the latter is to involve
students and lab workers -- the people most exposed to the risk -- in
that formal process of finding the hazards and assessing and addressing
the risk. That's also the best method of education.
Third, safety culture also means that reporting and addressing a hazard
gets rewarded, not punished. I was amused by the comment that industry
has an advantage because they can fire people at will. It's a good thing
they can't do that in union workplaces without proving it's justified,
because too many employers try to get rid of people who complain about
safety, rather than those who take shortcuts to get the job done.
Getting the job done is what frontline management wants.
Finally, there needs to be some independent oversight that can overrule
or at least impede a decision to charge ahead on a potentially unsafe
task in order to beat the competition, whether the competition is
commercial or academic. ("Publish or perish" can sometimes be literal.)
I think the union can fill that role to a large degree. OSHA and MSHA
do. A strong, well-resourced university safety office with the power to
shut down dangerous situations can also do that, of course.
One suggestion: my favorite book on safety culture is "Safety, Culture
and Risk," by Andrew Hopkins, published by CCH Australia. In fact, if
you Google Hopkins, you can find a lot of excellent stuff on process and
Michael J. Wright
Director of Health, Safety and Environment
(412) 562-2580 work
(412) 370-0105 cell
(412) 562-2584 fax
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From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**list.uvm.edu] On Behalf Of
Sent: Tuesday, April 19, 2011 12:25 PM
Subject: [DCHAS-L] 2 Re: [DCHAS-L] Nature News Article: Fatality adds
further momentum to calls fo
Just for the list's information, I'm agglomerating posts to the list in
order to keep the discussion going while staying within the 15
limit. Unfortunately, I'm getting used to a new computer at the same
so my process is not as elegant as I'd like, particularly when it comes
subject lines. Thanks for your patience.
From:scrooks**At_Symbol_Here**ppeppro.comRe: [DCHAS-L] Nature News Article: Fatality adds further momentum to
Of course there wasn't "any single individual finding of fault!"
Heinrich would be okay with the report I guess and while I hesitate
Dan Petersen up again after the last round of crickets, Dan is up there
looking down and wondering, "why still so many lost souls?"
Re: [DCHAS-L] Nature News Article: Fatality adds further momentum to
Amen. My cork is throughly charred by this as well. Monona