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Monday, June 26, 2017

Live Burn

Fire comes through the door
on the front of the house,
referred  to as the A-Side.
The radio crackled with the message, “The fire has been knocked down.” The crew inside radioed they were starting to ventilate. In a few more minutes they made their way down the stairs and were outside. The bedroom fire that had been set for training had been put out.

The Savage Fire Department invited me to observe a live burn training at an old house that was scheduled for demolition. The amount of planning, preparation, and attention to safety was exemplary as Deputy Fire Chief John Babin delivered his briefing. He made sure to include that if a Mayday message was heard on the radio it would be a real emergency and not part of the training that night. Some areas of the house were not going to be used and were designated “out of bounds.” The training followed the National Fire Protection Agency standard #1403 for live burn training.

Multiple water sources were in place.

The preparation for the water supply included a main engine, a backup engine, a collapsible tank filled with water, and two tanker trucks standing by. Backup hose lines were in place, and each crew member entering the building was tracked and observed. Room temperatures were monitored for safety and to allow the instructors to stay ahead of a problem. This building was old, and they did not want any surprises.

Each crew that rotated in and out was quiet as they approached the building. They got down on their knees as they connected to their air supplies and double-checked their protective equipment. It was all business. It reminded me of the “Sterile Cockpit” concept used in aviation, where only mission-critical conversation takes place during takeoffs and landings.

A crew prepares to enter the house.
The training was carefully controlled with new firefighters getting a less intense fire before advancing to a higher level. Most crews would get to a window after they had knocked down the fire and would radio they were about to begin hydraulic ventilation. They sprayed a fog stream of water through the window, and the resulting “Venturi effect” created suction in the room and pulled smoke and heat out. Once the firefighters were back outside, the critique that followed included both the firefighters’ actions and the resulting behavior of the fire.

A crew member monitors the water supplies and hose lines.
As the last crew came out of the house the building was inspected for signs of residual heat or fire, as the house would be used again for training the following day. As the crews started their clean-up, the homeowners who had been watching the training brought them a tray of cheese and crackers. It was a nice touch.

A big thank you to Savage Fire Chief Joel McColl and Deputy Chief John Babin for allowing me to watch.

Up next: 2017 LMC Law Summaries

Stay safe,

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Common Themes at the Minnesota Safety and Health Conference

I was struck by the common themes I heard during the presentations at the recent 2017 Minnesota Safety and Health Conference. This annual conference is presented by the Minnesota Safety Council and is attended by risk management and safety professionals from both the private and public sector. The attendees reflect a good mix of experience and training. This year’s conference slogan was “Drive Safe, Work Safe, and Live Safe.”

Like many large conferences, there were large general sessions and then a mix of concurrent sessions which tend to have a smaller focus and feature both successful safety programs and upcoming challenges. The session titles of “Fit for Duty,” “Human Error—What a Lame Excuse,” “Journey to Zero,” “Modernization of Security Operations and Awareness,” and “I Own Safety” were reflective of session messages. And I noted some frequent themes in these sessions.

Whether it was called employee-driven, employee involvement, or ownership, the theme of employee engagement was common. Successful safety programs involve front-line staff from the beginning. They are everyone’s program. These organizations continually look to their employees to identify safety problems, predict upcoming issues, and brainstorm safety solutions.

Benefits Beyond Injury Reduction 
Presenters would point to a chart with a declining line and explain how injuries have been reduced and the cost of injuries has declined. Many spoke about the additional positive consequences resulting from their safety programs, including increases in: productivity, worker satisfaction, and job retention—and even the cleanliness of their operations. In one session, they noted the company’s sales team features their safety record when working with potential clients. They stress the company’s commitment to safety, and the resulting lack of injuries translates to quality, on-time performance, and increased customer satisfaction

Many presentations mentioned the use of metrics to monitor their injuries and to spot trends. There was cautionary advice about carefully examining the metrics, as they may not always be measuring what the risk manager thinks is being measured. And there was quite a bit of discussion about vehicle telemetric programs where fleet vehicles with sensors document the vehicles’ speed, sudden stops, swerves, and seat belt use. The discussions and questions indicated this may be commonplace soon.

A shout out to Owatonna and Rochester Public Utilities and the City of Red Wing on receiving Governor’s Safety Achievement Awards. The awards are well deserved! Congratulations.

Up next: Observations from a Live Burn

Stay safe,