Should Workers Comp Cover Injury from a “Bad Trip?”

What a long strange trip its been when it comes to the advent of legalized (at least at the state level) marijuana.   Pot use has come up over and  over in the area of workers compensation.  Should medicinal use be covered?  Is use at the time of an injury a workers comp deal-killer?

But even among all of these new issues, this case stands out as a head-scratcher.   Continue reading “Should Workers Comp Cover Injury from a “Bad Trip?””

Come To Our Presentation On Operating Procedures As A Powerful Offshore Safety Tool

Badly written or poorly followed operating procedures have been linked to more than half of offshore oil and gas accidents.  Auditors continually identify them as weaknesses in SEMS plans.  In the last couple of years, BSEE has fined companies thousands of dollars for bad operating procedures.
We’ll be giving two presentations on how to use procedures as a powerful safety tool in the next month:

Thibodeaux, LA, Tuesday, March 21:  ASSE Bayou Chapter lunch meeting, 11:30 at Nicholls State Student Union in Houma. The charge is $25 to help fund the chapter.  Register by emailing the Bayou Chapter officers at

Houston, TX, Thursday, April 14:  ASSE Energy Corridor Section, Spring Creek BBQ, 2100 Katy Fwy, Katy, Texas.

Continue reading “Come To Our Presentation On Operating Procedures As A Powerful Offshore Safety Tool”

HazMat Prep and Response Training

I have had several requests for HazMat and HazCom training recently and have found a lot of confusion in what companies were actually looking for.  In talking to some colleagues, I realized that this is a fairly common problem.  Companies all need to provide OSHA HazCom training and ones that ship transport or receive hazardous materials need to provide DOT HazMat, but they may not know where one stops and the other starts.  It is understandable because they overlap and a lot of classes are hybrids of the two. Continue reading “HazMat Prep and Response Training”

Video for Safety Meeting: Burrito Causes Bus Crash

Need to “drive” home the point about distracted driving at your next safety meeting?   How about this video.  A bus driver in Albuquerque trying to navigate the streets and a burrito at the same time.  It turns out he can’t do both.  Thanks to the always informative and always interesting website Safety News Alert for this:

And while we are at it, here is a Russian bus driver who discovered the dangers of sleep deprivation on the job:


New Safety Video Aimed At Bullet-Proof Fishermen

We all have that friend who loves to fish but is a menace to himself and everyone else when he gets anywhere near a boat.   Do him a favor – Sit him down and make him watch this video!

It comes from Maritime NZ, which promote safe recreational and commercial boating in New Zealand.  The New Zealanders take their fish and their humor seriously!  This video makes the point that no one is bullet-proof when they get out on the water in a way that is very funny and very effective.   It is the first of three safety videos the agency is releasing.  Enjoy it and remember – never get caught with your pants down when you are fishing!

WIN AN EPIC $1,500 PRIZE PACK. What should you always wear when you're on the water? Watch the Big Angry Fish boys in the video and comment to win. The most creative correct answer wins the pack. You can only enter once per video. Entries close: 10 February. T&Cs apply:

Posted by Safer Boating NZ on Thursday, January 19, 2017

What The Boss Doesn’t Know Can Hurt Him….And His Company

Google the phrase “Safety starts at the top” and you will get more than 6,000 results.  We automatically accept that the CEO sets the tone on safety in a company.
What if the people at the top don’t know the true state of safety in their organizations?   DNV GL just released a study that makes that point crystal clear.   The report, SHORT-TERM AGILITY, LONG-TERM RESILIENCE, looks at a lot of issues facing the oil and gas industry as it attempts to recover, including the impact of intense cost cutting on overall safety.    DNV GL’s survey of executives found that more than half expect to continue to lay off workers in 2017 and one-third expect to reduce spending on training and competency systems. Only a handful expect to increase spending on health, safety, and environmental programs.
Here’s the most interesting part of the DNV GL study – They asked different levels within organizations whether cost-cutting initiatives were increasing health and safety risk.
Only one-in-10 of the executives thought cutbacks in the company had increased safety risks.  However, roughly one-in-four of the people who were closest to the ground – either business unit heads of non-managers – thought there was increased risk.
What does this mean?   There are a couple of scenarios.  Both spell trouble:
Scenario One:  The heads of units and rank-and-file workers overestimate the risk.  That is natural. Good unit and line managers worry about risk a lot because they are directly responsible for controlling it. Cuts came to programs they were directly involved in, so they felt them directly.  Let’s also accept that some safety programs may not have been all that effective in the first place and cutting them doesn’t materially impact risk.  The danger here is that, if unit managers and people in the field overestimate risk, the top executives have failed to communicate why and how their companies are going to run lean without sacrificing safety.
Scenario Two: Oil patch execs don’t have a true feel for the safety risks in the field.  The danger there is even greater, because the people who run the companies may not have enough visibility on their exposure to accidents, injuries and losses.   Either way, it could spell trouble.
Part of the problem is that top execs usually look at programs (budgets for safety may not have been cut as much as other parts of the company), stats (usually recordable injuries and time away from work, which should be lower if there is less work and you aren’t hiring inexperienced employees).   As the study points out, part of the problem is:
the distance between the boardroom of the budget-setters and the risks in the field. Senior management often have good sight of formal indicators (such as lost-time injuries or days away from work) but can sometimes be too far from operations to see things like corroding steel,failing pipework, structural problems or workforce overload.
However, we are now three years into a serious downturn.  Maintenance and replacements have been deferred.  A lot of the tools that give executives objective visibility into field conditions, like audits and inspections, have been reduced, if not cut.  If the company relies on contractors, survival has meant requiring those contractors to make their own deep cuts, forcing them to figure out how to make ends meet.
The disconnect on safety perception between the C-suite and the people who are closest to the work is not unique to this downturn or even oil and gas.  It shows up frequently in surveys of every industry.   A 2010 survey of company culture on Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) in Australia asked people throughout company structures
about their safety programs.   About 85% of the Owners and CEO’s said they agreed or strongly  agreed that “Top level management demonstrates a commitment to OHS.”   Down at the field or specialist level, that number fell to less than 60%.
Some of this has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with the way information is shared in organizations.  There is a popular pyramid graph that shows how much bad news is actually shared within an organization.  The message is that only about four percent of the problems experienced in the field actually make it to the CEO’s desk.   The warning is that no one wants to bring the boss bad news.
As oil and gas recovers, companies put more crews in the field, new people get hired and equipment utilization goes up.  The potential for incidents related to equipment failures, over-work or lack of training goes up the way too much pressure can find a weak spot in a balloon.
CEOs and their executive teams need to be actively engaged in identifying risk and addressing weaknesses.  Unit managers need to be honest about what they are seeing in the field.   Above all, CEOs need to invest in communicating with every level of their organizations so they have a true picture of their exposure and ensuring that no one is afraid to bring bad news to their doors.

Five Reasons To Get Serious About Operating Procedures

We are launching a new class on operating procedures.  The objectives of the class are to show people how to write procedures that:

  • Comply with government regulations requiring operating procedures.
  • Are effective, easy-to-understand and can be used in the field.
  • Follow recommended practices to standardize and manage procedures within an organization.

Access class description here: Operating procedures class one-page description

Why offer an operating procedures class now?

Here are five reasons:

  1. Compliance: SEMS Regulations for offshore oil and gas require procedures and poor procedures (or no procedures) can result in fines or orders to shut down operations.  OSHA’s PSM regulations also require written procedures, as do PHMSA pipeline regulations.
  2. Audits: Auditors have identified poorly written or incomplete operating procedures as one of the top noncompliance issues, if not the top issue.
  3. Safety: Good operating procedures are the pathway to safe operations.   They allow you to identify safety hazards early and control them in the design phase.  In the field, they give you a way to align Job Safety Analysis, Personal Protective Equipment and safe practices with the actual operations crews are performing.
  4. Competency & Training: The right procedures help onboarding new employees, pinpoint training needs and make it easy to determine whether personnel have the skills and knowledge to perform their duties.
  5. Investigations and Lawsuits:  The right procedures give you a legal defense if an accident occurs and the wrong procedures (or, worse still, no procedures) may leave you vulnerable in a lawsuit or government investigation.

We are in the process of finalizing our operating procedures class.  The goal is to make it available to people who:

  • Write procedures
  • Manage or oversee procedures in their organization
  • Audit or regulate procedures

The initial classes will be offered at a discount.   If you are interested in holding a class at your office or being contacted when we have classes scheduled, contact us at or by calling (985) 789-0577.

And the Winner Is…..Overexertion

With the Golden Globes, the Oscars and all the other awards that are given out this time of year, here’s one nobody wants to win – Most expensive worker injuries.

Every year, the Liberty Mutual Research Institute For Safety announces the Workplace Safety Index, which looks at the top 10 most expensive workplace injuries.   Once again the award for the injury catagory that costs american business the most goes to…(envelope please)… Overexertion involving outside sources, which is defined as “injuries related to lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying or throwing objects.”

According to the Institute, those kinds of skeletomuscular injuries cost companies a total of $13.79 billion during the analysis period of 2015 and amounted to 23.0% of the total business cost for all workplace injuries.

In total, workplace injuries cost about $60 billion a year, but the top 10 account for nearly $50 billion of that total.

Here is the full top 10 list with the percentage of the total workplace injury cost and dollar amount:

  1. Overexertion involving an outside source  – 23.0%, $13.79 billion
  2. Falls on the same level – 17.7%,  $10.62 billion
  3. Falls to a lower level – 9.2%,  $5.50 billion
  4. Being struck by an object or equipment – 7.4%, $4.43 billion
  5. Other exertions or body reactions – 6.5%, $3.89 billion
  6. Roadway incidents involving a motorized land vehicle 6.2%, $3.70 billion
  7. Slipping or tripping without a fall – 3.8%, $2.30 billion
  8. Being caught in/compressed by equipment or objects – 3.3%, $1.95 billion
  9. Being struck against an object or equipment – 3.2%, $1.94 billion
  10. Repetitive motions involving micro-tasks – 3.0%, $1.81 billion

The only positive to this whole picture is that workplace injury costs have not gone up as a dramatically as other medical care costs.  The cost of all workplace injuries in 2008 was about $53.42 billion.  The cost in 2015 (the year used in the 2017 survey) was nearly $60 billion, about 10% in eight years, versus overall U.S. healthcare costs, which are going up by about 6.5% a year.

The depressing news is that the ranking of the top 10 hasn’t changed much and the costs are not going down.  One area to keep an eye on is roadway accidents, which appears to be growing as a percentage, mirroring the increase in vehicular injuries and fatalities occurring in OSHA statistics.

Want to be a hero in your company?  Let Lifeline Strategies help you develop a plan to reduce skeletal muscle injuries, like bad backs and knees, and falls at your place of work.  Those are the injuries that are costing companies money and focused attention on those areas can produce big results on the bottom line.  Contact us at or by calling Ken Wells at (985) 789-0577.


Update: The Oil Rebound is Happening. Six Steps To Return To Work Safely.

In October, I ran a blog post that predicted that we had seen the bottom on oil prices and that companies needed to start preparing for the upturn, specifically, how to get back to work safely.  It got mixed reviews.  Most people who commented agreed, but several people said it was too early and companies were still laying off employees.  Both sides were right.  One of the problems with this energy recovery is that it is uneven and, depending on areas of operation and how they fit into the exploration and production cycle, some companies are hiring, while others are letting workers go.   However, as I write this, Brent Crude is in the mid-50s and we are waiting to see if OPEC lives up to its promise to hold down production.   With that in mind, I am re-running my list of six things companies should be doing right now to be ready to take advantage of the upswing.  If you need help with any of these areas, please contact us at 

The much-promised rebound in oil prices is starting to look real.  Brent Crude has been over $50 all month.  Predictions of $60 by Christmas are looking like more than wishful thinking. Oil companies are entering their budget cycles with some level of optimism for the first time since 2014.

So are you ready to get back to work?   For many oil and gas service companies, the honest answer may be no.  We may not have the people in the right places to do the work.   By one estimate, the American oil and gas industry shed more than 220,000 jobs, but the true number may be much higher when you count trucking, construction and other providers who may not show up under the “oil and gas” category.   That is a lot of positions to fill. We’ve been to this rodeo before and we know that, when business ramps up, we see the big increase in injuries, accidents and claims.

So what should a company be doing now to take advantage of the coming upturn?  Here is a short checklist:

____ Safety Plan Review:  There have been some changes to regulations since the downturn and some new customer requirements.   More than that, operators are likely to want your safety program to follow a SEMS or other safety management format.   In most cases, I find companies already have the safety management elements; they just need to be revised and reformatted, but it can mean the difference between getting and losing a job.

____ Pre-employment and Post-Offer Testing:  Drug and alcohol testing is a must.   Depending on the job, compliance testing (audio, respiratory fit tests, etc.) may be required.  Physicals and physical assessments should be a part of your program.   Making sure new people can perform job functions is critical when there are so many new hires.  If you don’t budget for testing and have an organized process for onboarding, you risk having injury costs eat up any profits from the new work.

_____ Injury Case Management: Honestly, this hasn’t been much of a problem during the downturn.  Less work.  Fewer injuries.  More time for safety managers to stay on top of injuries.   That all changes when it gets busy.   One of the secrets of successful safety programs is that they focus on case management to keep unwarranted recordables down, help workers get well and back on the job more quickly and minimize workers comp costs.   This is the time to line up a provider who can help support case management so you can focus on preventing accidents.

____ Job Descriptions and Skills Assessments:   This may be a head-scratcher, but if you don’t have accurate job descriptions, how do you know what new hires will do?  And if you don’t have a methodology to assess workers on the particular skills that make up the job descriptions, how do you know whether you have the right people doing the jobs?   Sure, every company has a number of in-house subject matter experts who know every job inside and out. However, those people are worth their weight in gold and they won’t have time to look over every new employee’s shoulder.

_____ Operating Procedures: See above.   Too many companies rely on head knowledge, not written knowledge.  The most experienced people will be too busy to share everything they know.  You also run the risk that they will be hired away just when you need them most.  Operators and government inspectors have already said many service company SOPs are inadequate.   It only gets worse when a lot of new people head out into the field.   Now is the time to make sure procedures are correct and can guide a new employee in the job.

_____ Training:  Review your introductory training.    Does it meet your needs?   How will you make sure every new employee is ready when things get busy.    What about supervisory training?   Supervisors and mid-managers are the most important part of your workforce when new jobs start up.  They need to be ready to lead their crews.

That is a short list.  There are many other things that companies need to have ready when things pick up.  However, we need to remember that we call them “service companies” for a reason.  Service is delivered by people and having the right people ready to do the job is the most important investment you can make when business returns.

Lifeline Strategies has expertise in each of these areas.  If you want to be ready to take advantage of the upswing in the oil and gas cycle, let’s talk.   We can help develop a plan of action or provide you with solutions for any of the challenges listed above.  Contact us at or call at (985) 789-0577.