Under the Act, the U.S. district courts have jurisdiction, upon petition of the Secretary of Labor to restrain any conditions or practices which are such that a danger exists that can reasonably be expected to cause death or serious physical harm. The district court can issue an order requiring such steps as may be necessary to avoid, correct, or remove such imminent danger and can prohibit employment where such imminent danger exists1.
Penalties vary with the type of violation, but upon conviction, they may be as high as a civil penalty of more than $10,000 violation for willful or repeated violations and a fine of not more than $10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 6 months for the first willful violation resulting in death; second conviction, $20,000 and/or one year imprisonment2. in other words, failure to abide by the regulations can pose significant penalties.
THE INSURER'S INTEREST
Another agency which impacts greatly on all areas of loss control is the insurance company. For each exposure you insure as a fire department, it is possible that an insurance company loss control representative would arrive at some time to conduct a survey. The insurance carrier has a vested interest in your fire department and has the right via your agreeing to the terms of the insurance policy, to visit (at reasonable times) your facility, evaluate the risk being insured, and make appropriate recommendations to control loss. You are not mandated by law to comply, however, if you cannot negotiate a solution or comply per the request, you may find yourself with increased insurance premiums or no insurance. As you will note, a fundamental risk management decision exists at this point.
As discussed earlier, the OSHA legislation was established with a research objective. NIOSH, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, has the responsibility to perform that research. NIOSH has identified a number of qualities which help comprise effective loss control programs. While not legislation, they make the system work and therefore warrant your attention. NIOSH found the following as "indigenous to effective loss control programs:"
- Continuous management concern and involvement
- Open communication between workers and management
- Good housekeeping
- Workforce older and warned of on the job problems
- Low turn-over and absenteeism
- Progressive and disciplined counseling programs
- Availability of recreational facilities
- Off-the-job safety programs
- Well defined job selection, placement, and advanced programs
Although NIOSH isn't law, it doesn't hurt to comply with guidelines and notices that they provide, nor does it hurt to implement their findings and suggestions when appropriate. Remember our goal of resource management!
As we saw in Article 2, there are seven elements of loss control program, each having a sub-set of components. Let's start with a well-written directed policy on loss control, affirmed to and signed by the senior fire department manager and distributed to all personnel. There are two critical support factors which must be affected at the same time. By assigning a responsible persons o manage loss control activities and providing appropriate hardware and software, management illustrates its willingness to support this effort and not have it as a "paper-tiger" the "hardware" concept is designed to provide for the necessary personal protective equipment to maintain as safe a working environment as possible. The "software" concept ranges into policies, rules, and procedures prepared and distributed; mandatory reports of various types of record sufficient data to make decisions; and secure appropriate insurance coverages or financial programs as deemed necessary. The support issues of claim management and rehabilitation must also be dealt with.
The Department of Transportation provides a variety of requirements for vehicle operations as well as the vehicles themselves. Some will be covered in a later article, however, it is important for you to determine what is or isn't required or appropriate for your department and take the necessary action.