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September 2013

Vehicle Technology and Crash Avoidance

Klatt Randy Posted by Randy Klatt

The 21st century brings continual technological advancement and the vehicle industry is one area where this is becoming more obvious.  The collision survivability rate is better due to multiple air bags, protective crumple zones, and improved restraint devices.  But today drivers are benefiting from improved safety systems that can actually help prevent collisions, not just protect the occupants should there be a collision. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers a summary of the latest innovations regarding collision avoidance.  These systems include Electronic Stability, Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning, Blind Spot Intervention, and Adaptive Cruise Control. 

  • An Electronic Stability System uses differential braking in order to keep the vehicle moving in the intended direction in an extreme maneuver.  This would aid the driver in spin out or under steering/plow out scenarios.  The system can brake one or more wheels, as required, to get the vehicle moving in the direction the driver intended with steering wheel input.
  • The Lane Departure Warning System uses a camera to monitor the painted lane markings on the road ahead.  If the vehicle starts to drift from the lane, with no turn signal activation, it will initiate an aural and/or visual warning to the driver.  It does not control the vehicle, but warns the driver so that he/she can take the appropriate action.
  • The Forward Collision Warning System uses a sensor system to monitor the distance between the vehicle and the vehicle ahead on the road.  It can determine speeds and closure rates and will again warn the driver if a collision is imminent.  Some systems will now auto brake the vehicle as well, but most are simply driver alerts.
  • Blind Spot Intervention Systems monitor adjacent vehicles and will alert the driver when a vehicle has entered their “blind spot” and the driver begins to drift from their lane.  Should the turn signal be activated the system will engage an aural warning, and some will begin differential braking to return the car to the original lane.
  • Adaptive cruise control is a feature designed to maintain a set speed and, when applicable, adjust the set speed to main¬tain a specified distance from a lead vehicle. When following another vehi¬cle, the system will automatically slow down or speed up in responses to changes in the lead vehicle’s speed.

As potentially helpful as these systems are, remember that the driver is ultimately responsible for the vehicle operation.  As a former airline pilot, I can say that advanced technology is a wonderful thing… until pilots become too dependent upon it and complacency sets in.  Perfectly good airplanes are flown into the ground on a regular basis due to over reliance upon technology.  Drivers today can take advantage of these crash avoidance systems and if done responsibly the collision rate will likely decrease.  But never replace vigilance with electronic gadgets.  Check out the National Transportation Safety Board website for further information on advanced safety technology for transportation.


OSHA's National Emphasis Program: Isocyantes

Luis Pierett 2013 smile Posted by Luis Pieretti, PhD

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) monitors industries with specific hazards by developing National Emphasis Programs or NEPs.  These programs are developed based upon injury and illnesses data, specific type of industry or hazard (i.e. lead, hexavalent chromium, combustible dust, etc.).  These programs guide the OSHA compliance officers in identifying non-compliance issues as well as help employers to identify and evaluate such hazards within their companies.  Today, we are going to talk about isocyantes.

Isocyantes is a chemical present in polyurethane paints and products, varnishes, fiber bonding, insulation material, plastics, adhesives, and inks.   This chemical could also be used in the manufacturing of textile goods, furniture, plastics, stone products, window frame and door manufacturing, aircraft parts, boat building, trailers and automotive repair.

Exposure to isocyantes can produce irritation of the eyes and the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract producing an asthma-like syndrome.  It also may produce dermatitis, chemical bronchitis with bronchospasm, pulmonary edema, headaches and insomnia.  Isocyantes can enter the body through inhalation and the skin.  Employees exposed to some type of isocyantes can become sensitized and develop allergic reactions.

The NEP for isocyantes is applicable to the general industry, construction, and maritime industries.  During an inspection under this NEP, the compliance officer could review the chemical inventory list and Safety Data Sheets (formally called MSDS) to confirm if isocyantes are used.  Remember that hazard communication training should be chemical specific.  If isocyantes are used within your facility, ensure employees are trained regarding the hazards of isocyantes, specific procedures, personal protective equipment to be used, and detection methods.

The OSHA 300 logs will be reviewed to verify if there have been work-related cases of asthma.  It is important to have documentation available of all incidents that occur in your facility.  Air sampling might also be conducted unless the employer has recent sampling data (internal, 21(d) Consultation programs and or third party); in which case, OSHA will determine if additional sampling is needed.  OSHA will verify there is no contamination (i.e. visible foam or coatings) on surfaces, tools, and in areas where contamination is not expected such as water fountains or lunchrooms.  Dermal sampling may also be performed.  Compliance officers could request the facility’s personal protective equipment (PPE) assessment to ensure that worksites using isocyantes are using the adequate PPE as well as evaluate the respiratory protection program.  Lastly, housekeeping practices could be evaluated during the visit.

For more detailed information regarding this National Emphasis Program, you can download it here


Back to Routine Doesn't Mean Back to Pain

Back to school and back to work often means more time at a desk and in front of a computer screen. But those old desk jockey aches and pains don’t have to return with you from your summer vacation.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, musculoskeletal injuries caused by poor ergonomics take nearly 400,000 workers out of work for an average of 8 days each year. And, while many of us can’t avoid sitting in front of a computer for several hours a day, there are ways to decrease your chances of injury and time lost from work or school.

The first step is often an ergonomic evaluation of your work area and your body positioning as you sit at your computer.

Here are some recommendations from MEMIC’s Chief Ergonomist Allan Brown:

  • Position your head so your ears are over your shoulders
  • Place screen monitor 18-24 inches from your eyes
  • Adjust your monitor’s height so it’s in direct line of your sight
  • Relax your shoulders
  • Keep upper arms in line with your torso
  • Put elbows at 90 degrees with arms comfortably at your side
  • Make sure wrists are in neutral posture; not be bent up or down
  • Place mouse on same plane as your keyboard
  • Use a chair with a good lumbar support
  • Keep feet flat on the floor; if your feet don’t reach the floor, use a foot rest

If you don’t have access to an ergonomics expert or are unsure of your positioning, have a friend snap a picture of you at your workstation to see what your posture looks like.

But perhaps the most important piece of advice is to get up and move. Every hour you should take a stretch, go for a walk, talk to a friend, but make sure to get up and move throughout your day. Whatever your new fall routine looks like, make good ergonomics a part of it.