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Risk Control Issues NewsBrief - January 2016

IBHS offers guidance to reduce property damage risks in severe winter weather

January can bring heavy snowfall, freezing rain and plummeting temperatures to many portions of the United States. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), a Travelers alliance and national research and communications organization, offers winter weather guidance for business owners to help reduce their property damage risks during the winter months.

Read more from IBHS, including how to help prevent roof collapse, frozen pipes and more.

To view more Risk Control information about winter weather safety, view the Tips to Help Prevent Roof Collapse web page on Travelers Prepare and Prevent.

Portable generator hazards

Portable generators are useful when temporary or remote electric power is needed, but they also can be hazardous. The primary hazards to avoid when using a generator are carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from the toxic engine exhaust, electric shock or electrocution, fire and burns. Every year, people die in incidents related to portable generator use. Most of the incidents associated with portable generators reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission involve CO poisoning from generators used indoors or in partially-enclosed spaces.

Read more from the CPSC or view the fact sheet from OSHA. Also, be sure to check out the Generator Safety web page on Travelers Prepare and Prevent.

Tips from OSHA to prevent cold-weather related workplace injuries and illnesses

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is reminding employers and employees to take the necessary precautions to help prevent and treat cold weather-related injuries and illnesses. Employees in construction are particularly susceptible to the effects of cold. OSHA’s Cold Stress QuickCard is available online and provides a reference guide and recommendations to combat and prevent injuries and illnesses due to working in cold weather. For free copies of this laminated card in English or Spanish, visit the Publications page on OSHA’s website.

To view our Supervisor Talk about the health effects that can occur when working in severe cold weather, log in to the Risk Control Customer Portal and search “effects of cold.”

FMCSA publishes final rule requiring electronic logging devices (ELDs

After years of anticipation and controversy, on Dec. 16, 2015, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published its final rule requiring commercial vehicle drivers to use electronic logging devices (ELDs) to record their hours-of-service. The Electronic Logging Device (ELD) rule is intended to help create a safer work environment for drivers and make it easier and faster to accurately track, manage and share records of duty status (RODS) data.

The rule applies to most carriers and drivers who are required to maintain records of duty status (RODS). See: FMCSA Hours of Service Rules for Drivers

The deadline for complying with the rule is Dec. 18, 2017. Carriers and drivers using Automatic Onboard Recording Devices (AOBRDs) prior to the compliance date must transition to ELDs no later than Dec.16, 2019.

Approved ELDs must synchronize with a vehicle's engine computer to automatically record driving time, for easier, more accurate hours of service (HOS) recording. The ELD rule includes technical specifications to ensure ELDs are standardized and compliant. Device manufacturers are required to register their devices with the FMCSA and certify that they meet these specifications. The FMCSA plans to make a list of certified devices available on its website beginning Feb. 16, 2016.

To learn more about ELD requirements, visit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s ELD website.

For many transportation company owners, the ELD mandate raises an important question: Should I invest in an ELD that only records drivers' hours of service, or should I invest in a fleet telematics system that not only records hours of service, but can also help me manage my fleet more efficiently and safely? A range of telematics systems available today are designed to help fleets record drivers’ hours of service plus more effectively track and utilize equipment, communicate with drivers, monitor safe driving, manage fuel and investigate crashes. Learn more at: Travelers IntelliDrive®.

FMCSA lowers random controlled substances testing rate for drivers

The FMCSA has announced that it will lower the annual controlled substances random testing rate from the current 50 percent to 25 percent, effective Jan. 1, 2016. This change comes as a result of annual motor carrier drug and alcohol testing surveys that show the positive rate for controlled substances has remained below one percent for several years. According to federal regulations, when the positive rate for controlled substances is less than one percent for two consecutive calendar years, the FMCSA Administrator has the discretion to lower the minimum annual testing rate. If at any time the positive rate for controlled substances exceeds one percent, the testing rate will revert back to 50 percent.

Companies that operate commercial motor vehicles requiring a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) must comply with the FMCSA Controlled Substances and Alcohol Use and Testing requirements.

Learn more:

FMCSA announcement
Current FMCSA random testing rates
What Employers Need to Know about DOT Drug and Alcohol Testing (Updated)

Exterior wall assembly combustibility in high-rise buildings

On New Year’s Eve a fire ran up at least 20 stories of Dubai’s “Address Downtown” hotel near the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest skyscraper. The fire behavior exhibited at this fire is not new and is more of a problem in developing areas (e.g. Dubai, China). There have been at least a dozen significant fires outside the US involving combustible exterior wall construction in high-rise structures. In this case, the exterior cladding was “aluminum composite panels” or ACP, which included a layer of polystyrene foam in the panel. Interior fire sprinkler protection is generally ineffective on exterior wall fires and firefighting effectiveness becomes very limited as the fire spreads beyond the reach of their equipment and hose streams.   

In the US, NFPA 285, Standard Fire Test Method for Evaluation of Fire Propagation Characteristics of Exterior Non-Load-Bearing Wall Assemblies Containing Combustible Components, has been adopted into most model building codes and has resulted in an existing building stock with exterior walls that are resistant to self-propagating fires. For more details on Fire Hazards of Exterior Wall Assemblies Containing Combustible Components, download this Research Foundation report from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). You also can find additional information from the NFPA about fire safety information for high-rise buildings

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