Home | Executive Dialogue | Carole Jesiolowski

Posts Tagged ‘safety’

Distributors Are Feeling The Summer Heat

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

2012 Heat WaveIt’s a cool 91 degrees here in Syracuse today—cool, at least, compared to recent temperatures this summer, and cool compared to much of the country, parts of which are well over 100 degrees today. For some, the heat is merely a discomfort; for others it poses a serious safety risk. But could it also be bad for gases and welding distributors’ business?

After a strong performance out of the gate in 2012, several distributors I spoke with say that business has slowed down over the last month and a half.

Brad Peden, president at Arcmaster Supply in Fort Worth, TX (where temperatures are expected to reach 106 today), says, “Business was very good up until the first part of June, and then it tapered off. I don’t know whether it’s the summer heat or vacations or what, but everybody I’ve talked to in this area says the same thing.”

Further north in Madison, WI, Badger Welding Supplies Owner and President Scott Griskavich says the heat has likely been a factor. “Agriculture and construction have really been affected by the heat. The construction crews, roofing crews, they’re knocking off at noon on those 100-degree days. Nobody’s out in the fields. We had a 20-day stretch of 90-plus-degree weather. For Wisconsin, that’s insane.” He adds that shorter work hours mean workers are not consuming as much gas and other consumables.

Delta Gases (Maryland Heights, MO) VP Todd Linnenbringer has also seen a lull in business. He has heard some business owners say it’s the heat. “It’s been so hot, maybe customers haven’t been able to work full force on certain projects,” he says, adding, “I really don’t know what to attribute it to.”

At least in Tulsa, OK, where temperatures have been as high as 114 degrees over the past few days, news reports confirm that the heat is slowing down oil rig workers. Apache Corp tells The Oklahoman its employees are allowed to shut down the rigs and cool off whenever they need, for as long as they need. Most companies require employees to take frequent breaks.

If the heat is indeed to blame, is there anything distributors can do to battle the heat? “Pray for rain,” jokes Griskavich. More seriously, he says he’s adjusted his cylinder fillers’ schedules with their safety in mind. “We make sure to fill all the cylinders in the morning while it’s cool. If you start filling them in the afternoon, it could be 95 in the fill plant, and those things are radiating 130, 140 degrees.”

For distributors looking to offset the lull with new business, lightweight workwear may be a window of opportunity. At oil rig sites, OSHA requires workers to wear long-sleeved and long-pant flame-retardant clothing, heavy steel-toed boots and hard hats. Apache Corp VP Rob Johnston told the Oklahoman, “We’ve spared no expense trying to find the absolute lightest clothing available.”

However, the heat is only one suspect in this case. Another possible cause for slowing sales is the impending Presidential election. Says Linnenbringer, “Some people are saying it’s tied into the election, with customers waiting on projects to see who gets into office. Personally, I don’t see why that should change anything.”

If either the heat or the election is to blame, the good news is that both are temporary situations, meaning an end is in sight. As Linnenbringer puts it, “Hopefully it’s just a blip on the radar, and we can get back to being busy again.”

Has your business slowed this summer? How are you handling it?

How To Turn An Accident Into A Purpose

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.
-John Powell

It’s always discussed that networking is one of the greatest values of GAWDA. It’s plain to see networking in action during GAWDA’s meetings and events throughout the year, but GAWDA provides other opportunities to take advantage of the collective knowledge of association members. One example is the Accident and Incident Sharing initiative.

Incorrect Cylinder Strap Usage

This example from GAWDA's safety committee shows the unsafe use of one strap to secure smaller cylinders.

Launched at the end of 2011, GAWDA’s incident sharing program is an incredible form of networking. GAWDA’s Safety Committee asked members to share examples of incidents that can be reviewed and shared with the entire GAWDA membership. The idea behind the program is simple: by sharing incidents that happened at one company, other members can prevent the same thing from happening at their businesses. This simple act of sharing can spare both injuries and expenses.

GAWDA members are now seeing the fruits of this effort. The July 2012 Safety & Technology Organizer contains the latest example topic, which involves delivery trucks, something that affects most gases and welding distributors. With this example, the Safety Committee hopes members will take a look at pickup trucks being used to deliver cylinders, welders, pallets of wire and other heavy objects.

This great networking benefit is exclusively for GAWDA members. The Safety Organizer can now be found under Members Only Publications on the GAWDA website.

If you would like more information about sharing an incident or accident through this program, take a look at “An Incident Shared Is An Injury Spared.” Remember the quote above, and let us learn from our mistakes.

Service And Safety On Memorial Day

Friday, May 25th, 2012

If there’s one thing the gases and welding distributors in GAWDA are known for, it’s service. So it’s no surprise that many men and women who work at GAWDA companies have also given their service to our country in the military. Memorial Day is a time to remember those who have died in service of our country, and a time to thank those who have pledged their service.

In addition to the many veterans who have served, many distributors employ members of the Reserve and the National Guard. Welding & Gases Today recently went inside the service of Guard and the Reserve members at Naval Station Norfolk. Machinery & Welder Corporation President Joe Campbell, a veteran himself, joined the Wisconsin Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve in their three-day Boss Lift event.

This great program familiarizes employers with the work their citizen soldiers do when called for military duty. Says Campbell, “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and made me very,

very proud.” It’s a great story, so be sure to check it out.

I want to take this opportunity to personally thank those who have served. It takes a lot of courage and discipline, traits that any GAWDA member would be happy to have in an employee. I’ve created a discussion on LinkedIn to personally thank GAWDA’s service men and women, so if you have served or know someone who has, please leave a comment in the group.

Finally, with the long Memorial Day weekend and what many consider to be the start of summer, there will no doubt be a lot of grilling done this weekend. I’ve shared this before, but it’s a great video from GAWDA member nexAir, and it’s always worth a look. In this video, nexAir’s Patrick Galphin talks about propane safety.

While LP gas perhaps isn’t a core product of the average gases and welding equipment distributor, there are quite a few GAWDA members who do specialize in propane. Whether it’s home heating or home grilling, safety is always important. What better way to spread this message than through a video.

Have a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend.

New Tanker Truck Definition Draws Criticism

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Tanker Truck Regulations QuestionedAs reported in a recent issue of the GAWDA Connection e-newsletter, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration changed the definition of tank vehicle in a way that impacts many drivers. The change outlines volumes for trucks transporting liquid or gaseous materials within a tank or tanks. At or above these volumes, drivers need a special tank vehicle endorsement on their CDL.

The summary states: “This new definition will require a tanker endorsement on the CDL of any driver operating a CMV that would be transporting four or more intermediate bulk containers, since those typically contain anywhere from 250 gallons to 330 gallons of liquid per IBC.”

The article also explained that the American Trucking Associations was preparing a petition to amend the rule, which would be supported by GAWDA and other associations. This past week, ATA released that petition in the form of a letter to FMCSA, which called the definition “burdensome” and described it as broad and including vehicles that are “manifestly not tank vehicles.”

Along with these issues, a loose enforcement timeline creates confusion for drivers and companies operating in multiple states. The rule was enforceable as of July 2011, but states have until July 2014 to comply. ATA Safety and Security Policy Manager Boyd Stephenson told The Trucker, “States have the option of starting to enforce the rule on the effective date, others wait longer. So you might wind up with Montana beginning to enforce the rule immediately and Idaho choosing to wait three years.” Particularly for distributors doing business in multiple states, this could create some confusion and/or additional expense.

Another question is why it has taken so long for this definition change to draw attention. The notice was published in the Federal Register way back in May 2011 as part of a larger final rule revising the CDL testing and learner’s permit standards. With states able to enforce the rule as early as July 2011, should FMCSA made the change more transparent and/or deliberate?

How do you feel about the new definition change? Do you agree that it is too broad and burdensome?

Another Word On Helium

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Last Friday, I posted a blog about the use of helium. It followed a series of posts regarding the rising costs of and access to the gas. I included a video taken at Alinea Restaurant in Chicago, where they are serving customers an edible balloon filled with helium. At the end of the video, the waiter serves the balloon and tells the diner that he can either pop the balloon with a needle or place his mouth on the balloon and inhale the helium. Inhaling helium is never a safe practice, as evidenced further by recent events in the news.

My inclusion of this video was meant as an ironic take on the rising cost of helium balloons; and unfortunately I fear this irony fell short. I should have clearly pointed out that the practices of this restaurant are entirely unsafe.

Even now, this video cannot be ignored. Over 200,000 people have seen the edible balloon video. It’s been featured on the websites of popular news outlets like The New York Times, The Washington Post, CBS News, TIME, Huffington Post and The Discovery Channel. GAWDA members who have seen this video know and understand that inhaling helium is dangerous and can be fatal.

If any of your customers are using helium in an unsafe manner, please let them know about the dangers of inhaling gases. GAWDA DOT, Security, EPA, & OSHA Consultant Mike Dodd released a notice about the dangers of inhaling helium yesterday, and is a great resource if you have any questions regarding safety matters related to helium or other products.

Finally, I want to thank the GAWDA member who brought to my attention the unsafe nature of this video. It reflects the true concern for safety that GAWDA and its members promote, and the awareness and vigilance we must all have.

Helium Alert: Help Customers Stay Safe

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Helium Safety AlertSafety is a number one priority for the Gases and Welding Distributors Association, as it is for GAWDA members everywhere. When working with welding and gases, there are many potential dangers. Unfortunately, when these products fall into the wrong hands, there is a potential for accidents. The best way to prevent these accidents is through education.

Reports have come out this week that a 14-year-old girl in Oregon died after inhaling helium at a party. A group of teens was using helium to make their voices sound funny, and the girl ended up with air pockets in her veins that led to her death. As MSNBC states, the event “exposes the rare but real dangers of inhaling helium, especially from a pressurized tank.”

Dr. Mark Morocco, associate professor of emergency medicine at the Ronald Reagan Medical Center in Los Angeles, explains the dangers of inhaling helium: “It is similar to when a scuba diver surfaces too quickly. A gas bubble gets into the bloodstream, perhaps through some kind of tear in a blood vessel. If it is a vein, the bubble will stay in the lungs. If it is an artery, it can block the flow of oxygen-laden blood to the brain, causing a stroke. If there is a hole in the heart, the bubble can go from a vein to an artery and then to the brain.”

In response to the event, GAWDA released the following safety alert:

Helium Inhalation Alert

Feb. 23, 2012

On the news today was an article on the tragic death of a teenage girl that died from breathing helium at a party. The Gases and Welding Distributors Association and the Compressed Gas Association have for many years been concerned with the breathing of helium in order to get the high pitched “Donald Duck” sound. These associations have released many alerts and communications over the years warning people not to breathe helium from cylinders or balloons filled with helium.

We want to remind our distributors to remind their customers of the hazards of inhaling helium at any time and under any circumstance.

If you have any inquiries on where to find out more information breathing inhalants such as helium, you can find more at the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition website: http://www.inhalants.org/index.shtml

You can also refer your customers to the MSDS for helium and to CGA P-9, The Inert Gases: Argon, Nitrogen, and Helium.

Feel free to contact me if you have questions, concerns, or comments.
Michael Dodd
GAWDA DOT, Security, EPA, & OSHA Consultant

When you work with gases every day, safety becomes second nature. Keeping customers educated about the dangers they face is paramount. Stay safe, and help your customers do the same.

How Nitrogen Saved A Snowboarder’s Life

Friday, November 18th, 2011

Winter starts early and ends late here in New York. Many people take advantage of long winters by snowboarding and skiing. Now nitrogen is making it possible for winter athletes to enjoy their outdoor activities more safely.

The latest innovation from The North Face uses nitrogen gas to potentially save lives. It’s a safety vest and backpack for skiers, snowboarders and other winter sports enthusiasts. The pack houses a canister of nitrogen that, when triggered, inflates two large airbags. In the case of an avalanche, the nitrogen-filled airbags will help bring the wearer to the surface. Professional snowboarder Xavier de Le Rue, who represented France in the 2010 Winter Olympics, says the airbag system saved his life a few years back when he was caught in an avalanche. The pack is still almost a year away for retail, but it’s a great use of gases (nitrogen in this case) to save lives. Check out the vest in action in the video below.

Of course, gases play an important role for mountain climbers. Earlier this year, Air Liquide’s Christopher Guest spoke about his journey to the top of Mt. Everest. He shared his story with Welding & Gases Today in “Outlasting Everest.” In the article, he explains how vital oxygen is to survival on Everest—and how he was almost without the life-saving gas on two occasions due to equipment and other climbers.

Mountains can be potentially dangerous for climbers, skiers and snowboarders. Thankfully there are gases to help keep them safe. Beyond safety, welding and gases played a significant role in the most recent winter olympics, from the olympic torch to making snow. Learn about the connection between the industry and the olympics in “Welding And Gases In The Games.”

Can you tell it snowed here yesterday? Click below to watch the video:

Video: Carbide Industries Responds

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

You may have seen the news this morning about GAWDA member Carbide Industries in Louisville, KY. A fire broke out Monday evening around 5:40 p.m. at a plant where Carbide Industries manufactures calcium carbide.

The chemistry behind calcium carbide makes this situation particularly unique. As GAWDAwiki explains about calcium carbide, “On contact with water or in damp surroundings, acetylene is formed and explosive atmospheres can be produced.” Because of this, first responders were unable to use water to combat the fire. Fire crews were able to use a dry powder to help contain the fire, and ultimately decided to let the fire burn out on its own. As of reports around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, the contained fire inside the plant continued to smolder.

Plant Manager John Gant did confirm in a press conference that a large explosion occurred at a submerged-arc furnace used to make calcium carbide. He explained the manufacturing process to Fox41: “We mix a carbon source and a calcium source together…we use electricity to heat it up to about 3800 degrees, and that’s where the explosion happened last night.”

Below is a video of the press conference. Carbide Industries’ John Gant speaks around the 11:00 mark and again around 32:30. He explains a little bit about the manufacturing process and what happened from CI’s perspective. My thoughts go out to everyone affected by these events. I will be posting updates on Twitter (follow me @GasWeldEdge) as the more information becomes available.

Welding In The News—But Not For Good Reasons

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Associated Press PhotoWelding has been making international news headlines this week, and not for good reasons. A fire devastated 150 families living in a high-rise apartment building in Shanghai, China. Authorities believe the fire was caused by misuse of welding equipment by unlicensed workers. According to the Associated Press, the welders were performing “energy-saving” renovations to the building. The current death toll from the disaster is 53—and some reports are calling this a conservative estimate. Another 70 people were injured.

Although such events are out of our control, it is not only saddening, but damaging to the image of welding. However, there may yet be some good that can come of this disaster. China is already responding by ramping up fire safety regulations. And the reports I’ve seen all highlight the fact that the welders were unlicensed.

So while the accident may deter some from welding, it may also push more into proper welding training programs. And that’s good news for distributors who do have training programs in place. As distributors, you can help your customers be safer. They may not thank you for it, but you can sleep well knowing you’ve helped. And hopefully we can avoid a disaster like the one that just happened in Shanghai.

To put an end to accidents at your own company, Welding & Gases Today has 6 steps to an accident free year.

Are You Close To A Serious Disaster?

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

The big news this week is the unfortunate series of explosions at GAWDA member Scully Welding Supply in Collingdale, PA. A small fire broke out in the yard, which triggered a series of explosions for more than 20 minutes. From the videos I’ve seen, it was a scary sight.

It’s almost hard to believe the fact that it could have been much, much worse. Luckily, fire crews kept two larger propane tanks in check, one a18,000-gallon tank at 20 percent capacity and another a 30,000-gallon tank at 30 percent capacity. And thankfully, from what I’ve heard, those involved in the accident are doing OK. The latest news is that crews were called back to the scene a day later to extinguish hot spot fires among the rubble. Needless to say, it’s a bad situation, and we’re all hoping for the best.

For all gases and welding distributors, I’m sure it is a scary thought to think this can happen to your business. Whether or not you sell propane, there are plenty of potentially hazardous products in the gases and welding industry. Are you doing everything possible to prevent a disaster? We pray that it never happens, but does your company have a disaster plan if an accident occurs?

You can’t be everywhere at once, but keeping tabs on safety is a critical, even burdensome task. Does your company have a full-time safety and compliance officer? If it’s only a part-time responsibility, does your compliance officer have enough time to do their job well? See what others in the industry are doing in Welding & Gases Today.

 Let’s hope we can learn from this disaster and hopefully make sure it never happens again.