CHST and Son Uphold Safety Ethics

Colan Holmes - Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Robert Slocomb, one of our Construction Health and Safety Technicians® (CHST), was recently joined by his son in protecting the safety, health and environment of their community. His son encountered some environmentally unsound business practices and took initiative in the matter. Slocomb shared the following story with BCSP.

Duty Bound and More

Fresh out of high school, our son was looking to start a career in the trades. We didn't know it, but the plumbing company he started with was a 'night and day company'; that is, they market one way and then act the polar opposite behind closed doors.

The revealing moment came the Friday of his first week, when he and another young man were sent to a secure storage yard to rake leaves. After four days our son was pretty disenchanted with this company and he planned to give notice. “They're not doing it right, and they're really unsafe.”

I should share that I'm a Construction Health and Safety Technician (CHST) certified by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals. His mother and I had spent a week of dinners listening to our son's complaints about this firm's business practices. We were pleased he'd decided to quit.

The secure storage yard contained the firm's septic pump-out tanker, an underground waste bunker, and ten portable toilets. It fronted a road, storefront, and two occupied apartments. Surrounding the fences were scrub trees. And most importantly, thirty feet down-grade was a private lake that fed the town's fishing pond, as well as sizable wetlands further along.

The owner had ordered the boys to rake leaves onto a large “mulch pile” inside the yard, between the pump-out truck and the building's back wall. Seeing it, our son immediately got suspicious. “That pile doesn't look or smell right”, he told his co-worker. The boy said he'd raked leaves over the pile before, and had always wondered what it was. After ten minutes of raking leaves up onto it our son announced that he was certain the pile wasn't mulch, but human waste.

That afternoon our son quit his job. Over the weekend, the three of us visited a public parking area fifty feet above the storage yard to have a good look at this pile for ourselves. We shot photos through the trees, zooming in. One thing our son said banged in my brain: “There's not much odor.” We all know human waste stinks, and yet the color was much too dark...

I Googled the chemicals in portable toilets. It turns out that a main ingredient used in the mix is formaldehyde. Formaldehyde kills bacteria. Had there been bacteria in the pile they would have been eating the waste, off-gassing and making a huge, detectable stink. The strange dark color was the result of the blue dye used in toilet chemicals.

That Monday I sent an email to our state's Department of the Environment. I proudly gave details of what our son found, attaching pictures as evidence. Our complaint was then referred to the county jurisdiction where a sanitarian picked it up. For some reason the county people didn't seem convinced we were genuine. But I remained dogged, so eventually the state sanitarian went over, demanding access to the firm's secure yard.

In talking to the sanitarian, I added information on the pile's lack of odor and odd dark color, saying that I was sure formaldehyde was present in the toilet chemicals and that, left out in the open as it was, the seepage threatened a lake, pond, and wetlands downgrade. To my disappointment, the sanitarian told me he left the yard without taking any kind of physical sample from the pile.

Reading the sanitarian's record of this visit, I discovered that he wrote: “We inspected the yard. We saw human waste, dark colors.” Translation: the sanitarian knew what he was looking at and communicated this to the owner. No sampling was needed because, within a day, the owner called to confess that, indeed, the pile was raw sewage from toilet pump-outs. It turns out he'd been dumping it there for years; ever since his illegal in-ground bunkers were topped off.

“Your activity creates a condition which is detrimental to human health,” reads the Bureau's letter. “Failure to correct these... may lead to civil and criminal prosecution.” The owner, it adds, “was knowingly causing pollution of ground surface [and] state waters.” On closer scrutiny, they found septic pump-out trucks that hadn't been inspected in six years, an underground waste bunker that was built without a permit, and a large exposed mound of formaldehyde-laden human waste 6 feet high, not counting tons of human waste in the bunkers.

The firm was ordered to dispose of it all at the waste treatment plant, fill in the illegal bunkers with concrete, and they pulled the firm's waste-hauling license for an unspecified period. The family who owned the private lake next door was notified that formaldehyde was leeching into their lake, and testing was suggested. Formaldehyde is listed as a carcinogen by the EPA and IARC. Apparently, chemicals and sewage from the firm's waste pile had been polluting the down-grade lake, pond, and wetlands for years.

In sum, I'm proud of what our son did and how he handled himself in this matter. As for me, I wonder how duty-bound I might have felt adhering to this code of ethics to, above all, “Hold paramount the safety and health of people, [and] the protection of the environment and property...” had I not become a CHST, certified by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals.

Author Robert Slocomb CHST is a Safety Engineer with PC Construction, currently building a state-of-the-art Cambi Digester System at Blue Plains Water Treatment Plant, Washington, DC.

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Support the National Safety Stand-Down

Colan Holmes - Tuesday, June 03, 2014
To bring attention to fall hazards in construction, companies are planning "stand-downs" in which they break to discuss the prevention of falls this week, June 2-6, 2014. Fatalities caused by falls are the leading cause of death for construction workers, accounting for 269 of the 775 construction fatalities recorded in 2012.

Information on conducting a safety stand down can be found on the campaign's OSHA webpage, which suggests toolbox talks on fall prevention, the inspection of safety equipment, and a number of other activities. The campaign website states a goal of having 500,000 workers participate, yet on June 2 OSHA reported that 1 million workers will be reached, nearly 1 of every 5 construction workers in the US.

OSHA is partnering with key groups to assist with this effort, including the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), OSHA approved State Plans, State consultation programs, the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR), the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), the National Safety Council, and the OSHA Training Institute (OTI) Education Centers.

We encourage our certificants to participate.

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New PowerPoint an Impressive Presentation of Safety Certifications

Colan Holmes - Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Check out the new, downloadable PowerPoint on BCSP safety certifications, available for your professional safety advocacy, presentations you may do for Recertification Points, or leadership in promotion of colleagues' professional development.

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BCSP Self-Assessment Examinations Test Your Knowledge

Colan Holmes - Wednesday, April 23, 2014
BCSP offers self-assessment exams as a way for individuals to better evaluate their strengths and weaknesses as they prepare for a certification examination. The self-assessments are constructed so that candidates can discover their knowledge in specific domain and subject areas, compare scores, and adjust their study accordingly.

There are self-assessments available for each BCSP certification, with a new self-assessment recently developed for SH&E professionals who would like to know how they may fare on the Certified Environmental, Safety and Health Trainer® (CET) examination. Each self-assessment exam is a hard copy publication.

Self-assessments can be ordered via the self-assessment brochure.

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Check, Double-Check Your Knowledge at International System Safety Training Symposium

Colan Holmes - Wednesday, April 09, 2014
The International System Safety Society (ISSS) is hosting its annual training symposium in St. Louis this August 4-8, 2014. The 2014 International System Safety Training Symposium (ISSTS) brings together the latest knowledge in safety processes from around the world, allowing attendees to exchange tools and knowledge.

This year's ISSTS will include contributions from a variety of domains including aerospace, automotive, defense, health care, rail transportation, robotics, critical infrastructure systems, industrial control systems, and academia. BCSP certificants have consistently been well represented at the event, which provides a wealth of knowledge in design-based safety.

More information on the ISSTS can be found on the symposium website.

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New ASSE Employer's Guide to Hiring a Safety Professional

Colan Holmes - Tuesday, March 11, 2014
The ASSE Guide to Hiring the Right Occupational Safety and Health Professional is a helpful tool for HR professionals, safety managers, and anyone looking to hire quality safety personnel.

The guide features:

» Tips on what to look for in the hiring process
» Qualifications desirable for a range of positions
» Frequently asked questions
» A guide to interviewing safety professionals

The information is provided to ensure the quality of organizations' safety practitioners. You may download the guide, and sharing it is encouraged.

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Safety Trained Supervisor Sponsors Certify Over Five Thousand Persons

Colan Holmes - Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Safety Trained Supervisor (STS) Sponsors certified the safety skills of over 750 of their employees in 2013, raising the number of current STS certificants who benefited from company sponsorship to over 5,000 persons.

Organizations which refer five or more people to the STS are eligible to join the STS Sponsorship Program. STS Sponsors partner with BCSP in the promotion of sound SH&E practice, and are recognized for their advocacy as Participating, Ruby, Emerald, and Diamond Sponsors based on the number of STS certificants they employ in a given year.

The growth of the program in 2013 was phenomenal. Two new sponsors, Idaho Power Company and PCL Construction Enterprises, made an amazing effort to reach the Ruby and Emerald classes of sponsorship in their first year of participation. Idaho Power Company referred 31 new STS certificants and PCL Construction Enterprises 55 new STS certificants.

The latest information on all STS Sponsors and the contributions they have made to strengthening supervisory safety practice can be found on the STS Sponsorship Program webpage.

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NAOSH Week Art and Video Contests for Children and Youth

Colan Holmes - Wednesday, February 12, 2014
As BCSP is seeking nominations of safety professionals for this year's Award of Excellence (AoE), we want to make sure you also know about how you can recognize aspiring safety professionals. Each year, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) holds a safety poster contest for youth. This year, youth age 13-17 are encouraged to make videos as well.

The contest is part of raising awareness of workplace safety in conjunction with North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week. You can see the thought contestants put into the top posters from the 2013 “Safety on the Job” contest.

Young people who would like to participate can sign up and submit their artwork online. The deadline is February 28, 2014, so the time has come to put those thinking caps on!

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Strengthening Opportunities for Women in Construction Safety

Colan Holmes - Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Reagan Branch, CSP, CIH is encouraging women to embrace careers in construction safety. Construction is a career field not traditionally gender diverse, with 11 men for every woman. As construction begins an economic recovery, and housing starts’ growth raises demand for homebuilders, the field offers greater opportunity for any who would seize it.

“Construction is a male dominated world and I think many women are intimidated by the prospect of taking on an authoritative role in this industry,” explains Branch. “Women can also bring a unique perspective to these industries that can spur economic growth. There are many avenues for entry into this sector and it is worth exploring. Through outreach, mentorship and access to safety training, women get the necessary information, exposure and confidence to embark on a field where I think they are naturally suited.”

Branch conducts presentations on the subject of women in construction safety, and she finds audiences receptive. Many who hear from her request additional information on training, internship opportunities, and necessary credentials. “Many feel the need to further their education or acquire certifications to be respected,” says Branch.

Safety certification in the field does not automatically translate into greater respect, but it has been helpful for Branch when she has needed recognition of her expertise. “I think the differences I noticed after obtaining my CSP were from employers and others within upper management,” she recalls. “Also, it validates my authority when dealing with ‘know-it-all’ types that insist on challenging my every decision or opinion.”

In addition to her presentations on women in construction, Branch conducts OSHA 10-hour and other safety and health trainings. Her promotion of safety is comprehensive. “If I can prevent the creation of, or peel away the ‘anti-safety’ mindset of an apprentice or a young person entering the field of construction I feel accomplished.”
Reagan Branch, CSP, CIH
Photo by Sophia Coaxum

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Nominate Yourself or a Colleague for an Award of Excellence

Colan Holmes - Wednesday, January 15, 2014
BCSP is seeking nominations for the 2014 Awards of Excellence (AoE).

The AoE recognizes top CSPs, OHSTs, and CHSTs advancement of professional safety in an annual ceremony. The third annual AoE Ceremony will be held Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at the American Society of Safety Engineer's (ASSE's) Professional Development Conference, Safety 2014, in Orlando, Florida. Certificants honored in 2013 enjoyed the praise of over 800 of their colleagues at the ceremony.

Nominations are now being accepted through February 28, 2014. Complete the nomination forms before this window of opportunity closes.

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