Hurricanes, fires and other disasters can cause widespread devastation that threatens the safety of your family and home. But once a disaster passes, you aren’t necessarily out of danger. If your home is damaged, it may not offer sufficient protection for your family. Plus, assessing damage and the rebuilding process itself can be costly, even if your insurance policy helps to pay the bills.
Before you can rebuild or repair your home, you’ll have to complete detailed inspections to see the extent of the damage. However, you should also keep your immediate safety in mind at all times. Even if you’re eager to return home, there could be a number of hazards present after a disaster that aren’t easily visible.
Here are some tips for when you re-enter your home:
- Don’t return to your neighborhood until it’s declared safe by local officials.
- Inspect the outside of your home for cracks in the foundation and sagging in the roof.
- Don’t enter your home if there’s a hazard present, such as damaged power lines, floodwater that’s above the basement or the smell of natural gas.
- Walk through every room of your home with a friend or family member, and take note of any noticeable damage or lost property.
- Don’t drink tap water until it’s been declared safe by local authorities.
- Be aware that wildlife may have taken refuge in your home, especially after a flood. Use a shovel or other long tool to rummage through anything you can’t see, and never approach a wild animal directly.
- Never force open a door that appears to be jammed. It’s possible that damage to your home has forced a door to support some of the building’s structure.
- Refrain from using wired electronics until you know the electrical systems are working properly.
Cleaning and Repairs
Once you’ve determined that your home is safe, you many want to start cleaning or performing small repairs yourself. However, the precautions you take during the recovery process can change depending on the type of disaster that affected your area. Use the following best practices to identify potential hazards in your home and prepare yourself for the cleaning and rebuilding processes.
General Best Practices
- Be aware of hazards that may be unique to your home. For example, older homes may contain lead paint, asbestos or other dangerous substances that can become exposed after a disaster.
- Wear appropriate protective equipment. You should always wear gloves and goggles when cleaning chemical spills or working with household cleaners.
- Read the manufacturers’ instructions on all cleaning products and devices before using them.
- Never mix chemicals together, either when disposing of them or using them to clean.
- Be aware of carbon monoxide hazards. Because the gas is difficult to detect and your home’s carbon monoxide detectors may not be working properly, it can be hard to detect a dangerous buildup of carbon monoxide. Never use fuel-burning devices inside your home, including portable generators that run on gasoline.
- Remove any standing water from your home as quickly as possible. Standing water can serve as a breeding ground for microorganisms and disease-carrying insects.
- Check the outside of your home to see if wind or debris has damaged the roof, windows or siding. If the damage appears to be severe, consult a professional about making repairs.
- Properly dispose of all waste materials and garbage, and never burn them.
- Take pictures of your home before and after it’s repaired. These pictures may help when making insurance claims.
- Make a record of any important documents that were damaged or destroyed, such as passports, birth certificates, Social Security numbers and insurance policies.
- Keep the receipts for any purchases you make while cleaning or rebuilding.
- Contact us at 831-661-5697 for help getting in touch with certified professionals and reviewing your homeowners policy.
- Wear an N-95 respirator if mold is present. If standing water has been in your home for at least two days, it’s likely that mold has begun to grow.
- Call a professional to help you clean if there’s a large amount of mold present.
- Remove any standing water as quickly as possible. However, if your basement is flooded, you should only pump out about one-third of the water a day. If any more is pumped out, it could cause the walls to collapse or the floor to buckle.
- Dispose of any food and containers that came into contact with floodwater, even if they appear to be airtight.
- Clean and dry all hard surfaces in your home. If anything can’t be cleaned and dried, it should be thrown away.
- Enter your home only after the fire department has said that it’s safe. Fires can cause severe damage to a building’s walls and floors, and they may not be structurally sound.
- To protect against serious health risks, avoid contact with soot and dirty water left over after a fire.
- Wear a mask while cleaning to prevent the inhalation of ash, soot and other residue.
- Check to see if your utilities are in working order. The fire department usually turns off utilities when fighting a fire and will know if they’re safe to use. Never try to turn your utilities back on by yourself.
- Use cleaning products that contain tri-sodium phosphate to help reduce the odor of smoke. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions before you use one of these products.
- Use a mild soap and warm water to remove stains from soot and smoke from hard surfaces. Make sure to rinse and completely dry all surfaces shortly afterward.
- Talk to a professional about replacing drywall or insulation that’s been soaked by water from fire hoses.
Working with Contractors
Hiring a contractor to repair your home is a good way to make sure the job is done professionally. Unfortunately, disasters also attract scam artists who prey upon those affected by a disaster, and you need to remain skeptical when using contractors. Here are some best practices for working with a contractor:
- Only use contractors who have a good referral from Scurich Insurance, family members or friends.
- Check to see if complaints have been lodged against a contractor you’re considering by visiting www.usa.gov/state-consumer.
- Be wary of contractors who encourage you to spend too much, offer “special deals” or ask for your credit card number before you’ve signed a contract.
- Ask to see copies of contractors’ general liability and workers’ compensation insurance policies before you work with them.
- Get a written price estimate that includes any spoken promises made by a contractor.
- Take your time to review a contract before you sign it, and be sure to ask for explanations about any price variations you notice. It’s also a good idea to get an attorney to review a contract before it’s signed.
- Never agree to pay a contractor upfront. A deposit of one-third the total price is standard.
- Only pay contractors with a check or credit card, and pay the final amount only after the work is finished and has passed your review. Also, keep in mind that paying with a credit card may offer protection from your bank and the credit card company if the contractor makes an unauthorized purchase.
Recovering from a disaster of any type is an extremely stressful experience, and one where your family’s safety and financial future may be in doubt. Here are some resources you may be able to use to help provide for your family and rebuild your home:
OSHA’s cranes and derricks operator certification standard becomes effective on Nov. 10, 2017.
Employers that use cranes and derricks in construction must comply with this standard. Employers should also become familiar with this standard if their employees work in areas or sites where cranes and derricks are in use. Finally, crane lessors that provide operators or maintenance personnel with the equipment they lease also have duties under the standard.
This Compliance Overview presents some frequently asked questions and answers compiled by OSHA regarding operator and signal person qualifications and operator certification.
LINKS AND RESOURCES
- OSHA’s cranes and derricks in construction website
- OSHA’s cranes and derricks FAQs
- OSHA’s small entity Compliance Guide for cranes and derricks in construction standard
OPERATOR QUALIFICATION & CERTIFICATION
On Sept. 26, 2014, OSHA published a final rule that extends the deadline for crane operator certification in the cranes standard at 29 CFR 1926.1427
for three years, to Nov. 10, 2017
(published in the Federal Register
). The final rule also extends the employer’s duty to ensure that operators are competent to operate the crane safely for the same three-year period. During this extension, OSHA will address operator qualification through additional rule-making. OSHA will provide updated information about the crane operator certification and qualification requirements as it becomes available on OSHA’s cranes and derricks in construction
What must employers do before the operator certification requirements go into effect to ensure the competency of their operators?
Employers must ensure that equipment operators are competent through training and experience to operate the equipment safely (see 29 CFR 1926.1427(k)(2)). If an employee assigned to operate a crane does not have the required knowledge or ability to operate the equipment safely, the employer must train that employee before allowing him or her to operate the equipment and must evaluate the operator to confirm that he or she understands the information provided in the training (see 29 CFR 1926.1427(f) training requirements).
Does OSHA require operators to be certified under existing state, county or city licensing programs?
The answer depends on whether the licensing criteria meets the minimum requirements (“federal floor”) in 29 CFR 1926.1427(e)(2) and (j). If a state or local jurisdiction has a licensing program that meets the federal floor, OSHA requires the employer to ensure that all operators operating within that jurisdiction are licensed by that state or local jurisdiction, unless they are qualified by the U.S. military (see §1926.1427(a)(1)).
This requirement went into effect in November 2010. Note, however, that the crane standard’s operator certification requirements do not supersede state or local licensing laws. If the licensing program does not meet the federal floor, OSHA does not require operators to be licensed in accordance with that program, although the operator may still be subject to action by the state or local authority for failure to comply with its requirements.
Who will determine if a state or local operator certification process meets the federal floor requirements in 29 CFR 1926.1427?
Initially, states or local governments are responsible for determining if a state or local operator certification program meets the requirements of 29 CFR 1926.1427(e)(2)(i-ii) (see §1926.1427(e)(2)(iii)).
OSHA does not require compliance with a state or local licensing requirement unless the state or local authority that oversees the licensing department or office assesses that program and determines that it meets the minimum requirements in §1926.1427(e)(2)(i) and (ii), including satisfying the substantive testing criteria of §1926.1427(j) through written and practical tests and providing testing procedures for relicensing.
OSHA does not intend to require compliance with a state or local licensing requirement absent a public statement by the authority with oversight responsibility for the licensing office that the licensing program meets OSHA’s minimum requirements and the reason for that determination. However, OSHA has the final authority in determining that the program meets minimum OSHA requirements.
Is the option for qualification by the U.S. military available to employees of private contractors working under contract to the Department of Defense?
No. This option is only available to civilian and uniformed employees of the Department of Defense. When the operator certification requirements are in effect, private contractors must use one of the other options for operator certification/qualification available under 29 CFR 1926.1427.
Does OSHA endorse or approve testing bodies for operator certification or other purposes under the cranes standard?
No. OSHA does not evaluate or approve crane operator training courses or crane operator certification testing bodies. Under the cranes standard, operator certification testing bodies must be accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency (29 CFR 1926.1427(b)(1)(i)). Currently the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) are the two organizations that OSHA has identified as nationally recognized accrediting agencies.
SIGNAL PERSON QUALIFICATIONS
What qualifications must a signal person possess?
A signal person must:
- Know and understand the type of signals used;
- Be competent in the application of the type of signals used;
- Have a basic understanding of equipment operation and limitations, including the crane dynamics involved in swinging and stopping loads and boom deflection from hoisting loads; and
- Know and understand the relevant requirements of the provisions of the standard relating to signals.
How does an employer know whether a signal person is qualified?
Under 29 CFR 1926.1428, employers must determine that a signal person is qualified through the assessment of a qualified evaluator, who must meet one of the following definitions in §1926.1401:
- Third-party qualified evaluator (“an entity that, due to its independence and expertise, has demonstrated that it is competent in accurately assessing whether individuals meet the qualification requirements in this subpart for a signal person”). The signal person must have documentation from a third-party qualified evaluator showing that he or she meets the qualification requirements.
- Employer’s qualified evaluator (not a third party) (“a person employed by the signal person’s employer who has demonstrated that he or she is competent in accurately assessing whether individuals meet the qualification requirements in this subpart for a signal person”). The employer’s qualified evaluator assesses the individual, determines that the individual meets the qualification requirements and provides documentation of that determination. This assessment may not be relied on by other employers.
(See 1/9/12 Interpretation Letter to William Irwin, Jr. and 6/28/11 Interpretation Letter to Walter Wise.)
Must the required training and qualification of a signal person be performed by an accredited organization?
No, but employers must have documentation of the signal person’s qualifications available at the worksite, either in paper form or electronically. For example, the documentation may be accessed from a laptop or tablet, via email or be transmitted from an off-site location by facsimile. While a physical card may serve as proof of a signal person’s qualifications, it is not the only means allowed by the cranes standard.
The documentation must specify each type of signaling (e.g., hand signals, radio signals, etc.) for which the signal person is qualified under the requirements of the standard. The purpose of this documentation is to ensure the on-site availability of a means for crane operators and others to determine quickly whether a signal person is qualified to perform a particular signal for the hoisting job safely.
(See 1/9/12 Interpretation Letter to William Irwin, Jr. and 6/28/11 Interpretation Letter to Walter Wise.)
Do Union and Trade Association Apprenticeship Certification Programs qualify as third party qualified evaluators for purposes of evaluating signal person qualifications in accordance with 29 CFR 1926.1428(a)(1)?
OSHA’s cranes standard requires each employer of a signal person to use a qualified evaluator (a third party or an employee) to verify that the signal person possesses a minimum set of knowledge and skills (29 CFR 1926.1428(a)). In general, OSHA does not evaluate or endorse specific products or programs, and, therefore, makes no determination as to whether a certification program meets the definition of a “qualified evaluator (third party).”
It should be noted, however, that in the preamble to the cranes standard, OSHA stated that “labor-management joint apprenticeship training programs that train and assess signal persons would typically meet the definition for a third-party qualified evaluator…”
(See the preamble to the cranes standard in the Federal Register at 75 FR 48029.)
With regard to training, the employer is ultimately responsible for assuring that its employees are adequately trained regardless of whether the employees’ qualification is assessed by the employer or a third party.
(See 1/9/12 Interpretation Letter to William Irwin, Jr. and 6/28/11 Interpretation Letter to Walter Wise.)
Does a certified operator automatically satisfy the criteria for being a qualified signal person under 29 CFR 1926.1428?
No. To qualify as a signal person, the operator would need to be evaluated by a qualified evaluator, satisfy the specified testing requirements for signal persons under 29 CFR 1926.1428 and documentation must identify the types of signaling (e.g., hand, radio, etc.) for which the operator has been evaluated.
In some cases, the operator’s certification process may also satisfy the signal person qualification requirements, depending on the qualifications of the certifying organization, the content of the certification exam and the documentation provided by the certifying organization. In general, the qualifications of a signal person and an equipment operator are not considered one in the same.
I received a license or certificate from an accredited organization as a trainer in signaling. Does this qualify me to be an evaluator of the qualifications of signal persons?
Not necessarily. While being an accredited trainer may indicate that the trainer possesses the skills for effectively communicating subject matter to trainees, a qualified evaluator must also have demonstrated that he or she is competent in accurately assessing whether individuals have the qualifications required by the cranes standard. For further information regarding signal person qualifications, refer to related fact sheets.
Safety programs not only have a positive impact on your bottom line, they improve productivity and increase employee morale. But how can you measure this?
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), workplaces that establish safety and health management systems can reduce their injury and illness costs by 20 to 40 percent. Safe environments also improve employee morale, which positively impacts productivity and service. When it comes to the costs associated with safety, consider the following statistics from OSHA:
- U.S. employers pay almost $1 billion per week for direct workers’ compensation costs alone, which comes straight out of company profits.
- Injuries and illnesses increase workers’ compensation and retraining costs.
- Lost productivity from injuries and illnesses costs companies roughly $63 billion each year.
In today’s business environment, these safety-related costs can be the difference between reporting a profit or a loss. Use these tips to understand how safety programs will directly affect your company’s bottom line.
The Cost of Safety – How Can You Measure This?
Demonstrating the value of safety to management is often a challenge because the return on investment (ROI) can be cumbersome to measure. Your goal in measuring safety is to balance your investment vs. the return expected.
Where do you begin?
There are many different approaches to measuring the cost of safety, and the way you do so depends on your goal. Defining your goal helps you to determine what costs to track and how complex your tracking will be.
For example, you may want to capture certain data simply to determine what costs to build into the price of a product, or you may want to track your company’s total cost of safety to show increased profitability, which would include more specific data collection like safety wages and benefits, operational costs and insurance costs.
Since measuring can be time consuming, general cost formulas are available. A Stanford study conducted by Levitt and Samuelson places safety costs at 2.5 percent of overall costs, and a study published by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) estimates general safety costs at about 8 percent of payroll.
If it is important for your organization to measure safety as it relates to profitability, more accurate tracking should be done.
For measuring data, safety costs can be divided into two categories:
Direct (hard) costs, which include:
- Safety wages
- Operational costs
- Insurance premiums and/or attorney’s fees
- Accidents and incidents
- Fines and/or penalties
Indirect (soft) costs, which go beyond those recorded on paper, such as:
- Accident investigation
- Repairing damaged property
- Administrative expenses
- Worker stress in the aftermath of an accident resulting in lost productivity, low employee morale and increased absenteeism
- Training and compensating replacement workers
- Poor reputation, which translates to difficulty attracting skilled workers and lost business share
When calculating soft costs, minor accidents costs are about four times greater than direct costs, and serious accidents are about 10 to 15 times greater, especially if the accident generates OSHA fines or litigation costs. According to IRMI, just the act of measuring costs will drive improvement.
In theory, those providing the data become more aware of the costs and begin managing them. This supports the common business belief that what gets measured gets managed. And, as costs go down, what gets rewarded gets repeated.
The Value of Safety
OSHA studies indicate that for every $1 invested in effective safety programs, you can save $4 to $6 as illnesses, injuries and fatalities decline. With a good safety program in place, your costs will naturally decrease. It is important to determine what costs to measure to establish benchmarks, which can then be used to demonstrate the value of safety over time.
Also, keep in mind that your total cost of safety is just one part of managing your total cost of risk. When safety is managed and monitored, it can also help drive down your total cost of risk. For example, a fall protection program implementation reduced one agribusiness’ accident costs by 96 percent – from $4.25 to $0.18 per person/hour.
Considering the statistics, safety experts believe that there is direct correlation between safety and a company’s profit. We are committed to helping you establish a strong safety, health and environmental program that protects both your workers and your bottom line. Contact us today at 831-661-5697 to learn more about our value-added services.