The High-Risk Division of Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO)
Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) facilities perform every type of aircraft repair you can imagine – replacing interior seats and carpeting, rewiring electrical harnesses and gauges, and maintaining and repairing engines, wings, or landing gear – you name it, MRO facilities touch it. Multiple times.
Mechanical work is conducted both inside and outside the plane. Mechanics, painters, cleaners, and others are up and down ladders frequently throughout their day. They often perform work overhead or within very confined compartments. Mechanics are often required to contort their bodies into a number of tight spots to complete their work. Bending, squatting, stretching, pulling, pushing, lifting, and torquing on wrenches is the heart of a mechanic’s activity. These actions lead to a high number of reportable strain/sprain and laceration injuries each year.
Aircraft work may be conducted inside the hangar or outside on the tarmac. Struck by injuries are common due to low ceiling heights inside the aircraft. Outside the aircraft, many struck by injuries are attributed to personnel walking into a wing, striking the bottom of the engine compartment when working overhead, or even being struck by other moving equipment on the tarmac.
Additional high risks associated with MRO facilities are the frequent lifting and/or moving of heavy and awkwardly shaped or weighted parts, the use of both hand and power tools, exposure to jet fuel, chemicals, and paint fumes. Ventilation is a major concern, particularly if an MRO paints on-site.
The aviation industry, as a whole, suffers a high rate of slip, trip, and fall claims. While there are a number of contributing factors (air hoses and tools lying on the ground, the frequency of work on ladders, etc.), weather may be the most serious contributing factor. A large amount of mechanical work occurs outside. Much of that work is completed from a platform ladder. Rainy conditions, snow and ice, and falling temperatures can all change the physical condition of a platform, and the worker’s footing, in an instant. Inclement weather and ladders can be a deadly combination.
Water discharge from the aircraft while servicing a lavatory can pool at a worker’s feet and create a fall or electrocution hazard. There are so many unique exposures in this industry. While it is impossible to focus on every variable at all times – work at hand, maintaining a center of gravity and footing, confined spaces, moving equipment in the work area – it is critical to be aware of your surroundings, including weather conditions, at all times.
Rapidly changing weather conditions and fast-dropping temperatures can be a game-changer. The best-maintained facility cannot keep up with every shift in conditions, particularly when we are talking about black ice and fast-forming ice on platform surfaces. Awareness is critical and cannot be emphasized enough. Sudden movements can have disastrous consequences.
Unfortunately, this industry experiences both a high frequency and a high severity of injury claims. Electrical shock, falls from heights, eye injuries, hearing damage, strain/sprain, struck by falling objects, slips on ice – all are common claims in the aviation industry. Inclement weather serves only to heighten these exposures. Claims in this sector range from minor sprains and lacerations to brain injuries, paralysis, and even death.
Make safety the top priority at your MRO facility. Establish a formal safety program, create a formal safety committee with a designated leader, and conduct JSAs on all positions. As summer fades out to rainy autumn and icy winter, be sure to promote seasonal safety awareness early and often.
Does your company have formal safety policies in place? Are you responsible for workforce safety or risk management? Email us or give us a call at (816) 349-0850 to see how we can help design a safety and risk management plan that meets your unique needs.
On the Job Safety for Automotive Repair Shops & Mechanics
Spend much time in an automotive repair shop and you’ll gain a new appreciation for the phrase “moving parts.” These shops are full of hazards. Mechanics suffer eye injuries, lacerations, and burns on a frequent basis. Historically, this profession ranks as one of the top 20 in reportable injuries.
From routine oil changes to major rebuilds, mechanics are in close proximity with moving belts and blades, hot parts, and pressurized systems every day. Simply changing a tire requires the use of a torque wrench. Strain/sprain injuries are common for auto mechanics due to the physical nature of stretching into hard-to-reach engine compartments and torqueing away on wrenches.
For auto mechanics, burns are frequently the result of contact with hot oil, transmission fluid, coolants, grease, or spot welding. Corrosives, oils (fresh and waste), fluids, solvents, and lubricants are stored on site, often in bulk. Rubber tires, oily rags, and batteries all pose safety hazards. Vehicles inside the shop have gas or diesel in the tanks. More than one automotive shop has burned to the ground due to electrical short. These fires rage quickly out of control with the abundance of accelerants on site.
Spills require immediate cleanup. Tools should be maintained in toolboxes and not strewn around the shop floor. Air hoses should be properly coiled and stored. Customers should not be permitted to walk through the shop area. Flammables should be stored in appropriate cabinets. Oxygen and acetylene tanks should be chained upright on caddies. Hoists and lifts should be inspected routinely. Eyewash stations, first aid kits, and fire extinguishers should be located in highly visible, easily accessible areas. Labels should remain affixed to all chemicals and employees should be trained in hazardous communications.
Good housekeeping can make a substantial difference in reducing the risk of injury and improving the safety performance of automotive repair shops. Are you doing enough to protect your automotive shop?
Does your company have formal safety policies in place? Are you responsible for workforce safety or risk management? Call us at ((816) 349-0850 to see how we can help design a safety and risk management plan that meets your unique needs.
Fall Prevention and Fall Protection Requirements
Ladders vary greatly in both design and construction. Safety is the one thing they all have in common. A strong ladder safety program should incorporate the following elements:
- TRAINING. Train workers on which ladder is right for the job. Ladders are made of a variety of materials (wood, fiberglass, metal) and range from a small step stool to a large platform. Part of the job analysis process is identifying the correct tools for the job in advance – ladders included.
- MAINTENANCE. Routine inspection of ladders is recommended to assure stability at all times. If the structural integrity of a ladder is ever compromised, it should be removed from service immediately. Ladders should be viewed daily for loose or missing rivets, broken steps, or other damage. A more thorough inspection should be conducted on a monthly basis as part of routine facility maintenance.
- SETUP. Stability matters. Ladders should always be set on stable ground. If a ladder is being used on sloped ground, it should have a tripod stabilizer pole, and there should be a spotter on the ground with the worker at all times. The ladder should be secured at the top with hooks or a ladder stabilizer to prevent the top of the ladder from pushing away from the structure you are climbing.
- FALL PREVENTION. Train workers on how to safely ascend and descend the ladder. That starts with maintaining a center of gravity when climbing and includes 3-point contact, non-slip shoes with a defined heel, and hands-free climbing. A large number of falls occur each year due to workers carrying tools in one hand and not maintaining proper contact and balance. Workers should not over-reach and should not stand on the top step of a ladder.
- FALL PROTECTION. Fall protection harnesses are generally not required when using portable ladders, but definitely apply when climbing fixed/stationary ladders of 24′ or more in height. There are times, however, that harnesses may be warranted. For example, climbing ladder up the side of a building near an open trench. This scenario may be rare, but illustrates the importance of knowing your surroundings and utilizing the proper protective equipment for the job.
And, while it appears to go without saying, please reinforce the concept of ONE worker per ladder. Injuries caused by more than one person on a ladder are reported each year. The number is not necessarily high, but the injuries caused from these falls tend to be severe.
To learn more about ladder safety, visit OSHA 29 CFR.
Does your company have formal safety policies in place? Are you responsible for workforce safety or risk management? Contact our Kansas City commercial risk management firm or give us a call at (816) 349-0850 to see how we can help design a safety and risk management plan that meets your unique needs.
What’s the true cost of a lost-time accident?
Employee A climbs a 6′ ladder, but cannot reach high enough overhead to perform the necessary work. Rather than retrieving a platform ladder, Employee A enlists the help of Employee B. Employee B climbs the ladder. Employee A climbs the ladder and attempts to climb onto Employee B’s shoulders. All come tumbling down. True story.
Employee A suffered serious head injuries and incurred medicals in excess of $60,000. Employee B suffered strains, sprains, and contusions, and incurred medicals of approximately $8,000. Employee A was off work for several months before returning on light duty and transitioning back to full-time status. Employee B was off work approximately 2 weeks.
Direct costs of this accident include the +/- $68,000 medical treatment, the entirety of the employees’ time off, and the immediate lost production due to the incident.
What are the indirect costs of this accident? Time spent responding to and cleaning up after this avoidable incident, investigating the incident, filing and processing the workers compensation claim, time spent hiring and training a temporary employee, potential ongoing lost production due to temporary staffing and learning curves, damage to any affected property or equipment involved in the accident, cost of workers compensation wages/premiums, potential reduced employee morale, time spent completing OSHA paperwork for reportable accidents, potential OSHA fines and penalties, potential costs to defend any litigation brought by the injured employees against the company, including time and money spent responding to discovery, attending depositions, and preparing for trial, regardless of whether the case goes to trial.
Some of these costs are tangible, while others are not. An employer’s reputation, for example, can suffer tremendously when a worker is hurt and the public perceives the employer to be at fault or careless in providing a safe work environment.
While this particular accident shows blatantly poor judgment on the part of the employee and never should have happened, it did. In addition to the tens of thousands of direct-loss dollars associated with this claim, the employer suffered extensive additional losses. These indirect losses can have a serious impact on your business.
Be prepared. Take safety seriously and develop your safety policies and procedures before you need them. An ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure.
Prevention and Treatment Tips for Heat Related Illnesses
The temperature in my hometown on June 13, 1980 was above 100˚ with a heat index of 113˚. I remember these numbers clearly, as my father was one of many heat-related deaths during the summer heat wave of 1980.
Summer should be a time of barbeques, swimming, family vacations, gardening, fishing, mowing the grass, and basking in golden rays of sunshine. And it can be, if you learn to respect the heat.
Your responsibility to your outdoor workers is two-fold in the summer: (1) assure that they remain hydrated and protected, and (2) recognize the signs of heat exhaustion and know how to respond accordingly. The following tips will help you protect your most valuable assets:
Heat takes a toll on the body, and everyone has a different tolerance to conditions. The following tips are provided to help prevent heat-related illness:
- Schedule work to alleviate full-day exposure to the heat
- Summer hours may need to be adjusted to an earlier or later shift in order to avoid the peak heat of the day, typically between 12:00 am and 4:00 pm
- Keep cool bottled water accessible to your workers at all times
- Recommended water intake is 4 cups per hour (1 Liter)
- Water should be consumed steadily throughout the day
- Avoid sugary and caffeinated drinks
- Chilled fruits like grapes and strawberries are another good source of hydration and can help cool the body temperature down
- Eat light meals – vegetables and fruits contain higher water content
- Dress in light, breathable clothing (cotton)
- Keep chilled towels for workers to wipe their faces or drape around their necks
- Schedule frequent breaks in designated shade or cooling areas where workers can rest out of the direct sunlight
- Employees should pace themselves – safe always wins over speed
- Wear sunscreen and brimmed hats, when possible
USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM
The buddy system is not just for kids. When working in severe heat, it is critical that your employees watch out for one another. This means they need to know the signs of heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.
Heat cramps are the mildest form of heat-related illnesses. Muscles spasms usually occur first in the arms or legs and typically result from the loss of salt and electrolytes that occurs from sweating. Workers experiencing heat cramps should recognize this symptom as a need to drink water.
What to do: Drinking a cup of water for every 15 minutes of direct exposure (1L per hour) will help prevent heat cramps. If a worker experiences heat cramps, they should sit in a shaded area, drink water, and do some gentle stretches
Heat exhaustion is a serious indication that the body is overheating and requires immediate attention. Signs of heat exhaustion may include:
- Rapid breathing
- Clammy, cool-to-the-touch skin
- Dizziness or fainting
- Dry mouth
- Excessive sweating
- Headache, nausea, or vomiting
- Rapid or weak pulse
- Paleness or weakness
- Flu-like symptoms, including diarrhea
What to do: Move the worker to a cool area, loosen any tight or restrictive clothing, apply cool wet towels to the skin or spray the person with cool water. Fan the person and get them to drink water slowly. If the overheated person won’t drink, starts to vomit, or passes out, call 911 for immediate medical attention.
Heat stroke is the most serious of all heat-related illnesses and requires immediate medical attention. Heat stroke indicates that the body can no longer cool itself and is an immediate health threat. Heat stroke often leads to severe organ damage or death. DIAL 911!
Signs of heat stroke include:
- Hot, red skin
- Body temperature of 104˚ or higher
- Lack of sweating
- Chills or vomiting
- Rapid pulse
- Slurred speech
- Disorientation, confusion, or total loss of consciousness
What to do: DIAL 911!
- Move the worker to a shaded, cool area
- Position the person to a half-sitting stance
- Remove tight clothing and fan the person
- Immerse the worker in cold water or apply cold, wet towels or ice to the skin
- Do NOT allow the worker to drink
Preventing heat-related illnesses is everyone’s responsibility. Train your workers in what to look for and how to respond to heat exposures and related illnesses, and have a safe summer!
Does your company have formal safety policies in place? Are you responsible for workforce safety or risk management? Contact our safety and risk management firm in Kansas City or give us a call at (816) 349-0850 to see how we can help design a safety and risk management plan that meets your unique needs.