The loudest and most welcome noise at College Park may be the explosion of cheers from the stadium grandstand after a touchdown scored by the University of Maryland football team.
But the same cannot be said of the ear-splitting din from leaf blowers operated by workers for the City of College Park. With a decibel rating from 98 to 103.1, protracted noise at that level can be not only unpleasant, but physically damaging to the ear.
Mike Howard, a Chesapeake Employers loss control specialist who often attends the monthly committee meetings, agreed to check out the leaf blowers with a sound level meter and report the decibel readings to Ms. Linder and her committee. The committee was convinced that action was required.
As a result, the city adopted a formal hearing conservation program and issued protective ear equipment to be worn by workers operating the leaf blowers. Another test by Mike Howard was scheduled in the spring for College Park employees who operate mowers, grass blowers and other noise-generating equipment.
Ms. Linder sings the praises of the College Park safety committee but emphasizes the importance of employee participation in such groups.
One of the more notable committee suggestions led to the recent development of a stair-step device that enables workers at Bond Distributing Co. to move 150-pound kegs of beer mechanically instead of manually, reducing the risk of back injury.
Another committee suggestion spawned a safety device for employees of Indusco Wire Rope & Fittings, which has served the Baltimore maritime industry since the early 1900’s. Previously, Indusco workers cut wire rope to the desired length by holding it in one hand and cutting it with the other. Now a clamp is used to hold the rope in place while it is cut, reducing the risk of severed fingers.
The value of safety committees has become so widely recognized that some governments, such as Canada and the State of Washington, have made them mandatory. Pennsylvania employers who establish a certified safety committee are eligible for a 5% discount on premiums for their workers’ compensation insurance.
Last year, not long after he became the Chesapeake Employers loss control specialist assigned to Calvert County, Will Ward was instrumental in establishing its new Safety Review Committee. Working with him in this were Gennie Zentgaft, the county’s risk management/benefits specialist, and J.R. (Bobby) Fenwick, its emergency management chief.
Members of the committee were recruited from divisions that generated most injuries, including the solid waste and wastewater division, the sheriff’s department, road crews and the detention center. Meetings are scheduled on a monthly basis, and a new communication tool, the “E Form,” was adopted to speed key information from divisions to risk managers, who channel summarized versions to the Safety Review Committee.
Formed only last August, the SRC has already produced evidence of improvement. Late reports of injury claims are down 30% from a comparable period one year earlier. There have been 38% fewer accidents involving lost time. Total claim costs dropped 43%.
It should, therefore, include representatives of both management and employees, and should encourage free expression of ideas for eliminating unsafe work conditions and for adopting procedures and equipment that enhance workplace safety.
Periodic follow-up checks should be made to determine progress on implementation of committee recommendations.
Everyone can contribute to a safer work environment, and a safety committee can make that contribution more valuable for all.