13 October 2010

More Policies to Protect... Employers

Void Spaces
More Warnings from the Ministry of Silly Warnings

In light of Carbon Trust's failed and then revised bicycle policy yesterday, a number of readers have mailed us about similar Health and Safety (H&S) Policies. The thing that binds so many of these policies together - apart from their dodgy scientific foundation - is their claim to "help protect employees from preventable injury".

Who are they kidding? We all know that such restrictive - and often bicycle-unfriendly - policies are designed "to prevent the employer from preventable liability", as one reader put it.

Here is the H&S policy from the University of Florida. The reader who sent it in writes that "It really gets under my skin when the policy lumps bicycles in with motorcycles, scooters/mopeds, and Segways. Segways? Really? Segways? I do not have the words to express my indignation."

You'll love this. Apart from the usual helmet yadayada the University of Florida recommends "A plastic shatter-resistant face shield". Seriously. It can "help protect one's face in a crash".

Once again there is a shocking abscence of motoring helmets in this H&S policy. Or recommendations for plastic shatter-resistant face shields for car occupants. Sigh.
My Alltime Favourite Warning Sign Confined Space
If you're in possession of a fun H&S read, do let us know. We'll compile a library of giggles. I can offer up the Ace Hotel in Portland's Document of Bicycle Fear, which is included in this earlier post, just scroll down a bit.

And Richard from Cyclelicio.us tweeted the link to an article about how Britain’s biggest engineering company, Jacobs Babtie, banned staff from travelling on bicycles or motorbikes after declaring them too dangerous.

Motorcycle, Scooter/Moped, Segway, and Bicycle Use by Employees - Personal Protective Equipment Policy

Environmental Health and Safety - Business Affairs
University of Florida

The purpose of this policy is to help protect University of Florida (UF) employees from preventable injury. The objective is to reduce the risk of employee injury or fatality through the use of appropriate personal protective equipment during operation of motorcycles, scooters/mopeds, Segways, and bicycles while in the course and scope of employment.

Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) is responsible for safety policy development and for monitoring compliance of UF facilities and operations. EH&S has enforcement authority when dealing with unsafe or non-compliant conditions and with violations of environmental, health, and safety related statutes and regulations.

This policy sets forth the requirements for use of personal protective equipment during operation of motorcycles, scooters/mopeds, Segways and bicycles by UF personnel while in the conduct of official business. All University employees who ride their personal or UF-owned motorcycles, scooters/mopeds, bicycles, or Segways for UF business purposes are required to wear a protective helmet. Employees may use their own personal helmet or a UF-provided helmet that meets DOT or CPSC standards. Use of a personal motorcycle, scooter/moped, Segway or bicycle for travel to and from work or for onsite recreational purposes is not considered “work related;” however, UF employees are strongly encouraged to wear their helmets whenever they ride.

Appropriate protective headgear must be worn by any employee who operates a motorcycle, scooter/moped, Segway, or bicycle on University business as follows:

- Motorcyclists and operators of a moped or scooter must wear a properly fastened helmet that meets the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) FMVSS 218 standards. Helmets that meet FMVSS 218 have a manufacturer-applied sticker on the outside rear of the helmet with the letters “DOT”.

- Bicyclists and Segway operators must wear a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) approved bicycle helmet.

- Helmets must be sized to fit the wearer snugly, yet comfortably.

- The helmet should have no obvious defects such as cracks, loose padding or frayed straps. A helmet impacted in an accident must be replaced regardless of its visual condition.

- Keep the helmet securely fastened when riding.

- A plastic shatter-resistant face shield is recommended and can help protect one's face in a crash. It also provides protection from wind, dust, dirt, rain, insects and debris. Eye protection is required under Florida law for anyone operating a motorcycle.


Kat said...

Am I entirely missing something here? My work sometimes sends me out on my bicycle to run errands. If I was to be involved in any incident, I would place the blame either on the driver who hit me, or myself if I’d made a stupid manoeuvre. If my bicycle was faulty, I’d blame myself, the shop I got it from or my mechanic. Never has it crossed my mind to blame my employer!

I’d love to know if these companies have similar policies for other methods of transport. If crash your car, can you blame your employer? If you get mugged on a bus, can you blame your employer? What actions are companies taking against these dangers they are placing their employees in!

mikey2gorgeous said...

An example of US intervention comes from the recent story about James Cracknell (a UK sporting hero) who had a cycle injury while crossing the USA by bike... http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/showbiz/tv/3065992/Olympic-rower-James-Cracknell-has-fractured-skull-after-being-hit-by-truck.html

I was talking to my Physio who knows one of the trainers on the tour. Apparently after the crash James was sitting up & perfectly lucid. A minor concussion.

However, in the USA, ANY minor knock to the head means you will be sedated and intubated for 48 hours!!!

The only reason he was in bed on life support was USA medical practice based on a fully private medical system. Yet the UK press made out he had been nearly killed and sustained a serious injury!

Kim said...

Having been to sea I fully understand why there is a notice saying "Do Not Enter Void Spaces Unless Ventilated" there is a very real danger which you can't see, people have been killed by ignoring this advice. Just opening the hatch does not constitute ventilation, void spaces are prone to filling with CO2, you can't see it, taste it or smell it, and so you won't know about it until it is too late. This notice is about real H&S.

However, most corporate H&S Policies are more about arse covering than any real concern for the safety or health of their employees.

Alexa said...

My daughter had one crash on her bike. She was wearing a helmet. It did nothing for her teeth, which hit the pavement. There was some blood, they were loose for a while, but they have yet, months later, to fall out.

I make her wear a helmet, and I wear one, too. Not that my head has ever come anywhere near hitting anything, but it's the law here in Massachusetts, USA, for kids 12 and under to wear them. I also wear sunglasses on occasion to keep the road dirt (&/or the sun) from getting in my eyes, but I will not be installing plastic face shields any time soon.

Yes, these policies are about covering the pockets of the employers. With private health insurance, if a person gets injured while at work, they are covered by worker's compensation insurance. That's paid for by the employers, and the insurance companies are notorious for having very low limits on how much they will pay out and for not paying the doctors. If you're on your way TO work, it's covered by your personal health insurance (if you're rich &/or lucky enough to have it), which YOU pay for. When the insurance doesn't pay for the medical bills, the person left holding the bill (the employer, the hospital?) will sue whoever has the most money (or the most generous insurance policy) to recover those costs. The companies write these safety policies to shift the blame to the employees in case there is a lawsuit.

Brian said...

I suspect the part about face shields is referring to motorcycle helmets - after all, many motorcycle helmets do have "plastic shatter-resistant face shields".

Think this one protected the wearer's face? http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/e/e8/Swisherhelmet.jpg