Fright Night

Safety Scares to make hardened tricksters gulp.

The Department of Terror
The day starts out like any other, but there’s this nagging sense of impending doom that you can’t figure out until a van pulls up and you realize that the Department of Transportation sent out one of its PHMSA crews to perform an inspection. They proceed to comb over your business, looking for any whiff of a violation. 

Treat: Clean up the small stuff. As a GAWDA member, you’re smart enough to have the big issues up to standard, but it’s the little things that can add up. Make sure condemned cylinders are properly marked and recorded. Take the time to perform a hammer test on cylinders going for 10 years between requalification. Teach your people to use the words “cylinders in process” for all the cylinders that you throw into an out-of-service pile. Call them scrap cylinders only after the DOT specification number and service pressure have been stamped out with a series of Xs.  

A Terrifying Lack of Training
You preach safety, but fail to practice it. Scheduled safety meetings have been pushed aside in the bluster of day-to-day operations. Your safety training has been reduced to a couple of posters on the wall. It doesn’t take long for cracks to start to show. Proper protective equipment becomes an option, lock out/tag out procedures start getting ignored and that’s just the beginning. 

Treat: A monthly training schedule is established. Resources from both your worker’s compensation carrier and MIOSHA are utilized in this training. Companywide training is conducted by each member of the lead team to demonstrate commitment and leadership to your core values. Additionally, all new hires are intensively trained, stressing safe work habits.  

Back-Feeding Frenzy
It’s good mixed with bad. A healthcare facility has asked you to assist with a medical gas system shutdown, but they want to do it through back-feeding. This is a bad idea because outlets are designed to flow out to supply flow meters. The wall orifice is 1/8 to 3/16 inch inner diameter in size at this point and is further restricted by the check valve mechanism present in the outlet. Back-feeding through these valves presents some serious safety issues. 

Treat: The safe method is cylinder-by-bedside. Place the appropriate cylinder in a safety stand or cart with the appropriate regulator attached next to the patient. A written recommendation to use the cylinder-by-bedside method will protect your company should the hospital’s plan to utilize back-feeding backfires. 

Night of the Living Lawyers
Lawyers. They’re everywhere—talking on your TV, smiling on your phone book and lurking outside your business, waiting for an opportunity to pounce. There are currently 1,500 fume litigation cases still pending in the MDL and as many as 5,000 additional cases pending at the state level. 

Treat: The best defense is a good offense. Adopt a safety-conscious attitude toward the products you sell—whether the risk relates to welding fumes or any potentially hazardous product you carry. Make sure all warnings and safety information regarding any of the products you sell are made available to your customers. Keep copies of all MSDS for any products you carry on hand for distribution to your customers or their employees. While you can’t guarantee zero lawsuits, a distributor who can demonstrate that they take safety seriously will be much more sympathetic to a jury than one who considers safety the manufacturer’s problem.  

Cellular Scare
While delivering a large quantity of volatile gas to a local construction site, your driver calls his girlfriend and the conversation turns into a heated argument. Distracted, your driver loses control of the delivery truck and it collides with a tree. The ensuing explosion is disastrous for the driver and fellow motorists. 

Treat: Although several states already ban cell phone use while driving, distributors should have a written policy in place deterring employees from either talking or texting via cell phone while on the road. Enforcing the policy is crucial to its effectiveness.  

File Flaps
Lost files can result in any number of mishaps. Missing forms confirming regulatory compliance can result in fines, while lost paperwork indicating which product a customer has purchased can result in an incorrect delivery. Older documents can unnecessarily clog your file system or, in some cases, be taken out of context and used in litigation against your company or a supplier. 

Treat: A written documentation retention policy can help you govern your documents. The policy should indicate what types of documents are kept and for how long. The policy should cover both written and electronic documents. It should also assign the task to a specific person and describe when and how documents should be eliminated.  

Medical Gas Mayhem
Your company delivers several cylinders to a medical facility. According to the order, each cylinder contains medical oxygen. However, one is actually filled with nitrogen, putting several patients at risk. 

Treat: Process controls at each phase of gas transfer are critical. A company should have strict valve adaptor and label controls, along with color coding standards, documentation review and implementation of the CGA bulletin SB-26, which safeguards against tampering with fittings. In addition, distributors should make certain that customers are authorized to purchase these gases in the first place.  

Evil Eye
The welding process incorporates numerous hazards. Ultraviolet light and sparks can cause both long-term and short-term damage to the eye. 

Treat: Protective helmets in the welding industry have evolved from simple goggles or face shields to auto-darkening filters that protect wearers from ultraviolet light. Additional protection can include heavy leather gloves and jackets that protect the skin from heat and flying sparks. Make sure you and your customers are wearing them when appropriate.  

Compliance Catastrophe
One of your driver’s licenses has expired. You are not sure which cylinder holds which gas in your warehouse. In the wrong hands, one of your products could present a threat to the public at large. A representative from the Department of Transportation or the Department of Homeland Security is ready to deliver a substantial fine or shut down your operation altogether. 

Treat: There is no substitute for preparation. GAWDA provides a variety of resources addressing compliance issues. Membership in the association gives you access to consultants who can provide assistance via phone or e-mail. GAWDA’s website also offers a wealth of information, including industry-focused GAWDA Compliance Manuals that are routinely updated by consultants.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association