Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Religious Discrimination
Increases in the workplace

Religious Discrimination apparently is alive and well in the workplace according to Newsmax in an article hededCQ Steep Rise in Workplace Religious Discrimination Claims .

Suggestions on what to do about the situation are given at the Ohio Employer's Law Blog under the heading Halting the tide of religious-discrimination claims .

According to Newsmax,

    "Religious discrimination complaints in the workplace have more than doubled over the last 15 years and appear to be growing faster than other types of complaints.

    "In 2012, there were 3,811 religion-based complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the second-highest number in a year ever recorded, after 2011, when 4,151 complaints were filed, The Wall Street Journal reports.

    "While age, sex, race, and disability claims are still much higher, religious claims are increasing at a faster rate and have doubled in the last decade and a half."

The blog lists suggestions culled from a Tanenbaum report titled Six Steps to the Accommodation Mindset. The six (6) recommendations in the report include:

    1. Ask: When an employee comes to work in a turban, find out if this is due to a sincerely held religious belief (turbans are required to be worn by religious Sikhs). If so, the employer should try to accommodate (especially if it doesn't cause the employer a big burden). Even if a particular practice is not part of the traditional practices of a religion, it is protected. Case law supports the individual's right to define the way he or she will practice their religion. Thus, an employer might have to allow a Muslim woman to cover her hair even though the requirement to cover one's hair cannot be found in the Koran as a requirement of the religion.

    2. Get the Facts: Try to remember that there are many new immigrants in our country. In the past, most immigrants came from Europe. Now, most come from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Many are legally allowed to work (i.e. because they have proper papers as refugees or as legal aliens, or because they have become citizens). We even have a special visa - HB1 - that allows us to import skilled workers because we can't fill our needs from our domestic labor pool. Check with the federal government (www.dol.gov) to be sure what documentation must be provided in each case and only ask for those papers. All work-authorized individuals are protected from document abuse. Document abuse discrimination is when employers request more or different documents than are required to verify employment eligibility and identity, reject reasonably genuine-looking documents or specify certain documents over others.

    3. Respect Differences: The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are going to have a personal impact on employees born in the United States and those who come from - or have families in - the countries embroiled in these conflicts. Employers should take both situations equally seriously and provide all such staff with the same support and benefits. According to a Tanenbaum survey:

    • Respondents not only experience religious bias, but also expect it.
    • Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists are the least comfortable and most vulnerable groups in the workplace.
    • Of these groups, Muslims feel the most vulnerable.
    • Not only did Jewish respondents report the lowest degree of discrimination - lower even than the Christians - but Jewish respondents also reported the highest level of comfort on the job.

    4. Communicate: The mere existence of a written policy on religion, in itself, reduces the perception of bias in the workplace. Implement written nondiscrimination policies covering religion, religious expression, and religious accommodation. Enforce them. And communicate them to employees. Companies need a specific policy on religion because of all the protected classes (race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and age) cited in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, only two require accommodation: religion and disability.

    5. Educate: Tensions often arise around religious difference due to a lack of information or misinformation. Be prepared. If employees want to learn more about each other's religions, provide them with resources that can give them more info. Consider bringing in a facilitator to provide training around specific issues, i.e. why Sikhs wear turbans and Muslims pray 5 times a day. Americans don't know much about others' religions. According to the survey "For Goodness' Sake: Why So Many Want Religion to Play a Greater Role in American Life," by New York City-based Public Agenda:

    • Only 28 percent of respondents understand evangelical Christianity very well.
    • Only 17 percent understand Judaism very well.
    • Only 7 percent understand Islam very well.
    6. Be Creative: When an employee requests a religious accommodation, think creatively about ways that both the needs of the employee and the needs of the company can be met. Not only is there a good chance that a compromise can be found, but even if one isn't, this shows that the employer made a good faith effort to accommodate. A situation arose at a large hi-tech firm shortly after 9/11 where the security department insisted a new Muslim employee remove her hijab (veil) for her photo ID key card. She insisted that her religious belief prohibited her from appearing unveiled before non-familial men. Management deliberated and came up with a solution. The new employee was given two ID cards - one veiled and one unveiled. Her unveiled photo was taken and processed by a woman and would not be shown or used for entry purposes. The veiled photo card was the one programmed to unlock doors and was the one shown for ID purposes as she moved around the facility. The "bottom line" according to the Newsmax site: "Employers are generally required by law to accommodate workers as long as it does not create an "undue hardship" for their business."

    The "Six Steps to the Accommodation Mindset" reproduced with permission from The Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding. Copyright 2008 by Tanenbaum. http://tanenbaum.org

Monday, October 28, 2013


A war risk
Never considered

An article hededcq WWII-Era Chemical Agents In Sea Drifting Close to Poland on my daily Global Security Newswire email from Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) presents a risk I never consciously considered.

According to the Oct. 28, 2013 article, Chemical-warfare materials dumped in the ocean after World War II have been discovered by scientists drifting closer to Polish territory than was previously known, United Press International reported on Monday.

A minimum of 15,000 metric tons of German chemical armaments were demilitarized by Russian and U.K. forces by being poured into the Gotland Deep -- an 800-foot-deep Baltic Sea basin positioned between the Baltic states and Sweden. The dumped chemical agents included mustard blister agent and tabun nerve agent.

Researchers believe the moldering chemical agent still represents a danger to the surrounding marine life as well as to nearby fishermen and beach-goers that might come across washed-up munitions.

Obviously, the Russian and U.K. forces that "poured (the chemicals into the Gotland Deep" either failed to consider the potential risks or simply didn't care; the waters into which the chemicals were dumped were near neither Britain nor Russia.

Remnants of war should have been considered, although I confess that such "souvenirs" never crossed this scrivener's mind. Land mines left over from wars past still claim lives; likewise unexploded shells are commonly found in Europe when holes are dug for new construction foundations.

The greatest "water" risks in my area are sharks and pollution. Both can incapacitate personnel and that can disrupt business as usual. Unexploded ordinance can be found in most countries that have gone to war or that have practiced going to war. At least we are alerted to migrating sharks and dangerously high pollution levels before venturing into the water.

Watching the news - history in the making - must be considered an integral part of "keeping current" for every risk management practitioner. It is an extension of group dynamics when the practitioner gathers everyone together to - with apologies to Intel - "imagine the possibilities."

No one person can think of everything, but practitioners can expand the risks lists by reading a variety of publications, both general and professional, by gathering client personnel for no-holds-barred sessions where no risk is too off the wall, and by communicating with other practitioners, but the latter must be a two way exchange.

What is DONE about individual risks is a matter of prioritization and management decision; but all risks, no matter how "off the wall" they may seem, deserve consideration.


If I wrote it, you may quote it.

Friday, October 25, 2013




Simple way to protect ships

"Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it." Edmund Burke. (Later, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás, Reason in Common Sense, The Life of Reason, Vol.1 )

(CNN) -- Armed men stormed a boat off Nigeria's coast and took hostage two mariners believed to be U.S. citizens, a U.S. official said Thursday.

Pirates kidnapped the captain and chief engineer from a U.S.-flagged oil platform supply vessel in the Gulf of Guinea on Wednesday, the official said.

Details about the crew members' conditions and the condition of their ship, the C-Retriever, were not immediately available.

Louisiana-based Edison Chouest Offshore, which owns the vessel, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Travel by sea can be perilous in the region where the attack occurred, one analyst said Thursday.

"The danger there is extreme," said Capt. Don Marcus, president of the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots.

According to Wikipedia, in Somalia, there were 151 attacks on ships in 2011, compared with 127 in 2010 - but only 25 successful hijacks compared to 47 in 2010. Pirates were holding 10 vessels and 159 hostages in February 2012. In 2011, pirates earned $146m, an average of $4.87m per ship. An estimated 3,000 to 5,000 pirates operated; by February 2012 1,000 had been captured and were going through legal processes in 21 countries.

Wikipedia provides a table of ships seized by pirates off Somalia since 2005.

In a CNN article dated Oct. 22, 2009, pirates seized control of a cargo vessel near the Seychelles Thursday, one of two attacks that took place within minutes of each other off the coast of east Africa, according to the European Union Naval Force.

A second attempted hijacking took place at approximately the same time, but the Italian-flagged cargo ship evaded the attack, the EU said. Armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades, pirates opened fire on the MV Jolly Rosso about 460 miles (740 km) east of Mombasa, Kenya.

The first nine months of this year has seen more pirate attacks than all of last year, the bureau reported on Wednesday. From January 1 until September 30, pirates worldwide mounted 306 attacks, compared with 293 in all of 2008, it said.

More than half of this year's attacks were carried out by suspected Somali pirates off the east coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden, a major shipping route between Yemen and Somalia. Out of those attacks, Somali pirates successfully hijacked 32 vessels and took 533 hostages. Eight others were wounded, four more killed and one is missing, the bureau said.

The attacks can be stopped but it takes cooperation between the navies operating in the area - including the Chinese who have made their presence felt there - and the owners of civilian merchant ships plying the waters near from Oman to Egypt. (Yes, I know the short route is via the Suez Canal; more on the Canal later.)

The idea of convoys of merchant ships escorted by naval vessels is not new; it dates back to the 12th century. According to Wikipedia, "The use of organized naval convoys dates from when ships began to be separated into specialist classes and national navies were established.

Photo from http://www.ww2incolor.com/us-navy/k00388.jpg.html

"By the French Revolutionary Wars of the late 18th century, effective naval convoy tactics had been developed to ward off pirates and privateers. Some convoys contained several hundred merchant ships. The most enduring system of convoys were the Spanish treasure fleets, that sailed from the 1520s until 1790."

Granted, a merchant ship sailing between Oman and Egypt would be time consuming. Traversing the Suez Canal would provide for a much shorter trip, but escorts still would be needed from Sudan to Oman. Currently Egypt is not a pirate haven, although Libya has been know to host pirates, ergo its inclusion as a terminus.

Who would pay for the escort service? The owners of the ships being escorted. The fees would, naturally, be passed along to the customers.

The alternative is to train and arm the crews to a level that they can repel attacks. To the best of my knowledge, only Israel's Zim does this, which may explain why there are no attacks on ships flying Israel's colors. A cargo vessel is a much more stable platform from which to fire weapons than the pirates' smaller attack vessels. The only disadvantage for the merchant ship is head count - a modern container ship has a crew of less than 10.

Since merchant ship crews often are pick-up crews made of several nationalities and loyalties, "weaponizing" ships a la Zim is generally contra-indicated.

Which brings us back to convoys.

A look at the map of Africa and its close Asian neighbors (Yemen, Oman), along with a history or pirate attacks would indicate where convoy protection is most needed. The need for protection along one coastline may change from time to time depending on local political and economic conditions. Shipping companies can check with their foreign offices (in U.S., the State Department) for fairly up-to-date information. Likewise, navies can shift their resources as necessary.

Africa, by the way, is not the only place pirates call home. They also operate out of the Pacific. According to the U.S. State Department's Travel.State.gov site, "Piracy at sea is a worldwide phenomenon which has affected not only the coasts of Africa, but also Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Yemen, and Venezuela. U.S. citizens considering travel by sea should exercise caution when near and within these coastal areas."

A naval presence does greatly reduce the threat of piracy. According to the State Department, "Pirate activity in the Straits of Malacca has declined significantly since 2005 due to increased military patrols and vessel security."

"Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute." A famous expression often linked to the Marines at Tripoli; in truth it is associated with a U.S. disagreement with France. None-the-less, if piracy is to be eliminated, the pirates' victims should bear at least part of the cost - the rest can be billed to the navies as "training expenses."

Today there are two options:

One: Arm the crews with weapons to successfully defend their ships and train the crews to use the weapons safely. (Will they use them when needed?)

Two: Convoys.


If I wrote it, you may quote it

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Expensive cover

In a New York Post exclusive hededcq Obama wants Marines to wear "girly" hats we are told that Obungler is proposing that the taxpayer shell out US$8 million on new covers (hats) for Jarheads and Jarhead'ettes.

The proposed covers are a throwback to a previous generation of Marines, a generation that included Sgt. Dan Daily who won not one but two Congressional Medals of Honor. The proposed covers are similar to NY Fire Department dress hats.

As a former Air Force enlistee, who wore both a barracks hat and an "overseas" cap (called by a rather unflattering name due to its design), I really don't care what covers the Marines wear; ditto for the other services.

But as a taxpayer obliged by "my" government to pay off a recently raised again multi-trillion dollar foreign debt, I am, to be polite, "upset" by the proposed expenditure of $8 million, particularly when Washington tells us we are in a budget crunch. Apparently it is "Do as I say, not as I do" for our elected officials in D.C.

Unfortunately, the "cost be damned uniform scam" foisted on the taxpayer and military lifers for uniform changes is nothing new. The Air Force has been continually messing with its Blues almost since its inception (separation from the Army).

While BRAC closes bases, while missile defense sites are declared unnecessary, the Pentagon - now apparently at the urging of the Commander in Chief - that's POTUS or, currently, Obungler wants to spend millions on new covers for the Marines.

Granted, compared to the national debt's TRILLIONS, a few millions is chump change - and I emphasize "chump" for that's what, IMO, POTUS must consider the taxpayer.

I'll admit, based on the NY Post's graphic of the current and proposed covers, the proposed hat for women Marines is a better choice; the barracks hat looks oversized and awkward on the girl in the dress uniform.

The bottom line for this taxpayer is: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." That applies to military uniforms as well as government in general.

If I'm heavily in debt, I don't go out buying new suits; I look for ways to put my limited funds where I need them. Maybe if I could just print money . . . but I can's (legally).

What's next?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

ERM-BC-COOP in a minute:

Job prep & recovery time
Issues can prove expensive

Being involved in a legal action, even it the organization prevails, is expensive and can lead to an interruption to "business as usual."

Lately I have been reading about more and more court cases on complaints by workers claiming they were not paid for mandatory work done prior to, and following, work hours.

For example, a bus driver has to report 15 minutes early to inspect and prepare his bus to accept passengers. His formal work shift begins at 7 a.m., but because he has 15 minutes "prep" time, he actually begins work at 6:45 a.m.

Think about the person who has to "suit up" to work in either a clean room or a potentially contaminated area - a nuclear plant, for example. Not only does the employee have to take time to prepare for the job, the employee also needs time to doff the protective gear after the work day is complete.

On the clock or off the clock?

This is not a matter of a minute or two, although even that adds up over time, but 10, 15, 20, or more minutes every work day.

Unless the pre- and post-job time is covered in a union contract, and sometimes even if it is covered by contract, eventually someone will demand payment for the time spent prepping for the job and time spent "recovering" to pre-work status (changing back to "civilian" clothing; showering, decontamination, etc.).

While nothing is 100 percent certain, the threat of court or work action (strike) can be mitigated by a clearly written and publicized policy and procedure (P&P) covering prep and recovery time. In a union environment, developing a P&P must be done with union participation. In non-union organizations, it is advisable to include effected employees at all levels in the P&P development.


If I wrote it, you may quote it.


Change passwords early and often

Thursday, October 10, 2013


Politics as risk

When I would tell clients that they should – I prefer “must,” but consultants only can suggest – consider “politics” as a risk, for most of the clients I was thinking locally: town councils, planning and zoning boards, streets, public safety. I also was thinking about state-level politics, but “not so much.” With the exception of vendors to the Federal government, Washington was almost an after-thought.

How much impact could the Federal government have on a local, or even interstate, business?

It turns out quite a bit.

Forget about the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that can shut down airports and disrupt business travel), or Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that likewise interrupts business travel as well as import and export activities; these agencies must be considered risks for almost every organization that has any over-a-border interest.

Consider the Obama regime. It has shut down much of the government essentially over the Affordable Health Care Act, a.k.a Obamacare, including those agencies that generate revenue. It threatens to shut down most of the remaining services if an yet another hike of the Federal debt ceiling is refused. This follows a sequester of funds and services.

The President of the United States – POTUS – by fiat shut down the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the agencies that run Federal parks, monuments, etc.

In southeast Florida, that shut down means that the Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park are closed. Translation: For tourists, no entry and for the government, no entry fees. For businesses that operated on or into the park, it means they are out of busyness; they cannot get to their business.

Three headlines in the Miami (FL) Herald tell the plight in South Florida communities:

Keys fishing guides protest closure of Everglades National Park A

    ISLAMORADA -- Each day at noon, Capt. Matt Bellinger usually does his local radio fishing update from somewhere in the back country of the vast Everglades National Park, where he takes clients to fish for snook and tarpon or photograph birds and other wildlife.

    He always ends his updates with his mantra: “Get on the water. And go fish!”

    But on Wednesday, sunny with calm seas and a gentle breeze — a perfect day to be out on the water — Bellinger could not take clients to his beloved fishing grounds. Like all 401 national parks, the Everglades National Park was closed by the government shutdown.

Miami’s Biscayne National Park won’t be open to boaters during Columbus Day Weekend

    Like the rest of its counterparts around the country, Biscayne National Park is closed because of the federal government shutdown — but not if you want to fish, boat through on your way somewhere else, or seek shelter in a storm.

    But the thousands of powerboaters who normally gather in park waters over the upcoming Columbus Day weekend to anchor, raft, play music, dance and drink will not be welcome.

    Diving and snorkeling also are prohibited.

Fishing guides want back in Everglades

    ISLAMORADA, Fla. -- Frustrated by partial shutdown that has closed Everglades National Park and 400 other national parks across the country, fishing guides in the Florida Keys spearheaded a rally Wednesday hoping to convince federal officials to let them back into park waters.

    Although Keys state and offshore waters remain open to anglers, fall is a prime season for visitors to fish in the park's shallow estuaries for prized gamefish, such as snook, tarpon, redfish and trout.

    Guides who depend on that for income have lost money and are frustrated with Washington leadership's inability to pass a budget to fully reopen federal resources.

And that’s just the tip of the peninsula. I would provide a map of Federal parks in Florida but “Because of the federal government shutdown, all national parks are closed and National Park Service webpages are not operating. For more information, go to www.doi.gov.” And then we are told to “Experience Your America.”

An aside: the Interior Department’s Web site does provide Information on the Department's preparation of contingency plans for a possible government shutdown in October, 2013.

The DOI’s mandate includes:

  • Departmental Contingency Plan
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs
  • Bureau of Indian Education
  • Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
  • Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
  • Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement
  • Bureau of Reclamation
  • Fish and Wildlife Service
  • National Park Service
  • Office of the Inspector General
  • Office of Insular Affairs
  • Office of the Secretary
  • Office of the Solicitor
  • Office of the Special Trustee
  • Office of Surface Mining
  • US Geological Survey

Back in the day when I was an honest newspaper reporter & editor in Nevada, I came to learn how much ranchers, farmers, timbermen, and others depended on access to Federal lands controlled by BLM or the Forest Service, the latter’s Web site announces “Due to the lapse in agency funding, the sale of all types of permits (i.e., recreation, firewood, forest products, mineral materials for example) are suspended, recreation.gov reservations are suspended, and all federally owned recreation sites are closed. All offices are closed. These services will be available once funding is restored.”

Much of the Forest Service’s mandate includes revenue producing activities.

Another aside: I wonder what this means to people who have built year-round homes on Federal lands; will they be able to access them? Will the roads be allowed to deteriorate to the point where nothing less than a tracked vehicle will be able to travel on them sans serious damage?

Looking into the future and assuming the Affordable Care Act, apparently the major bone of contention between Republicans and the President - is sustained, what will happen to those insured under the Act if something like this political flap happens again? For that matter, on a personal level, what will happen to seniors who contract with Medicare vendors paid from Social Security funds? (The vendors get substantially more than the Part B $102/month per insured.) If Social Security shuts its wallet – the threat if the debt ceiling is not raised – and will the vendors continue to pay for the senior’s care; will the vendors be able to pay for their client’s care?

While many businesses are not directly impacted by the current and promised threats, many will indirectly feel the impact. (Consider education, veterans - already penalized. The list goes on and on.)

Bottom line: When thinking about “government as a risk” (and it truly IS a risk) practitioners must look beyond local and state governments and consider the Federal government as well.


If I wrote it, you may quote it

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Lesson from a doctor

According to an article in the San Antonio Express-News’ mySA site heded Poor penmanship costs doctor $380,000, “A local physician whose illegible handwriting led to the fatal overdose of an elderly patient was ordered by a civil court jury Thursday to pay $380,000 in damages to the woman's family.”

While most Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) and Business Continuity/COOP practitioners eschew the pen in favor of a keyboard, the point of the article, at least as this practitioner sees it, is the necessity to make certain the audience gets the correct message.

It is not the audience’s job to try to interpret the practitioner’s words; it is the practitioner’s job to communicate to the audience in a manner the audience comprehends.

By the way, the operative word is “comprehend,” not “education” or “position.” Neither necessarily equates to comprehension of a specific subject.

According to the San Antonio paper, the doctor “changed his mind about the dosage, intending to increase it (from 10) to 20 millamoles(NB), testimony during the weeklong trial indicated.

“However, instead of scratching out the original amount on the form or starting over, he attempted to write a “2” over the “1,” the doctor acknowledged.

“The result, witnesses said, was a misinterpretation by nurses and pharmacists that the doctor had ordered 120 millimoles — a dosage described by plaintiff's attorneys as very obviously fatal.”

Most practitioners find they must communicate with multiple audiences – very senior management, middle/line management, and the folks in the trenches. Add to that that the folks in the IT trench may not have the same vocabulary as the folks in the HR or production trenches.

Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate the problem.

One way is to let someone else create the plan documentation. At the same time, this can exacerbate the problem; instead of the scrivener getting the information directly from the source, the writer gets it second hand from the practitioner.

    There was a game children played when I was in primary school. Kids sat in a circle. One child whispered a word or sentence to the next child. The second child told the third child. This continued until the last child “got the word.” That child was asked to tell everyone what the child thought the first child said. Then the first child said what really was said. The two responses never matched.

No matter who creates the document, each section of the document that covers a functional unit – facilities, HR, IT, Production, Purchasing, Shipping/Receiving, etc. – must review its portion of the document.

If – and most do – a section overlaps other sections; e.g., a process being handed off from Section “A” to Section “B” and, after Section “B” completes its tasks, hands the process to Section “C,” the related sections must review their parts of the Section “B” document.

If there are major revisions, the revised sections need a follow-up review by the sections’ Subject Matter Experts (SMEs).

Practitioners need not be SMEs in all fields, nor should they be expected to be an SME in anything other than risk management. I understand a little about IT, but I depend on the IT SMEs to make certain I understand the processes if not the terminology.

It’s a good idea, when gathering information, to note the source and the source’s contact information. The source for process information ideally will be the person who performs the process.

    Keep in mind that the process may be different when recovering from an event than normal, day-to-day operations.

Documentation that is incomplete, poorly structured, or poorly worded is worse that no documentation at all.

The practitioner – or the professional scrivener – must keep foremost in mind the audience’s requirements and the audience’s technical vocabulary, be it HR-speak or IT-jargon.

Anything less and the practitioner could end up in court.


millimole (mmol)
a unit of metric measurement that is equal to one thousandth (10-3) of a mole. It is the amount of a substance that corresponds to its formula mass in milligrams.

the amount of a substance that contains as many elementary entities (atoms, ions, molecules, or free radicals) as there are atoms in 0.012 kg of carbon 12 (12C), i.e., Avogadro's number, 6.023 × 1023, of elementary entities.
Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.


If I wrote it, you may quote it.

Monday, October 7, 2013


It pays to invite
Emergency Services
To visit before need

A Wall Street Journal article on its Corporate Intelligence page titled A Note to Firefighters: How Not to Extinguish a Flaming Tesla showed a photo of a crumpled Tesla with flames coming from beneath the vehicle followed by the following text:

“In trying to put out that stock-market fire (caused by the accident and fire), Tesla founder Elon Musk has let real-world firefighters know that standard operating procedures aren’t going to work when dealing with a flaming electric luxury sedan. From Musk’s blog post on the incident.”

According to the blog, “When the fire department arrived, they observed standard procedure, which was to gain access to the source of the fire by puncturing holes in the top of the battery's protective metal plate and applying water. For the Model S lithium-ion battery, it was correct to apply water (vs. dry chemical extinguisher), but not to puncture the metal firewall, as the newly created holes allowed the flames to then vent upwards into the front trunk section of the Model S. Nonetheless, a combination of water followed by dry chemical extinguisher quickly brought the fire to an end.”

Unfortunately the blog failed to state how firefighters should have attached the fire.

In days of yesteryear (Hi Yo Silver!) I worked for a company that made automotive airbags. The airbags were inflated using a small dose of Class A explosive.

Like most organizations that store hazardous materials on site, the company had worked closely with the local constabulary and fire brigade so that if something DID go “boom in the night,” all responders would know what to expect and how to proceed.

Almost every organization has something that can be “hazardous to your health” at one time or another. Cleaning materials may seem innocuous as they sit in their containers in a normal environment. But add fire and there is the potential for both a poisonous gas and an explosion. Fire fighters need to know (a) what is used/stored on site and (b) where it is used/stored on site.

Firefighters, and police, too, need to know the layout of all facilities: the entrances and exits, the power panels, the water stand pipes, and any fuel lines with the related cutoff valves.

    Just a thought: If the Emergency Services people are expected to come to the site via the parking lot, it might be wise to have people assemble for a post-evacuation nose count somewhere other than the parking lot. Just a thought.


If I wrote it, you may quote it.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Americans working overseas
Still covered by US laws?

Risk Management Advice for HR

According to JDSUPRA.com in an articled hededCQ Employees Who Work Abroad: Are They Covered by U.S. Employment Laws?, “just because an employee works beyond U.S. borders doesn’t automatically exempt him from the protections of the various federal employment statutes. This article provides a brief overview of the applicability (or inapplicability) of the major federal employment laws—Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Equal Pay Act (EPA), and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)—to employees working abroad.”

Some of the U.S. laws apply even when the employee is working for an organization only controlled by a U.S. company.

According to the article from Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP, , not everyone working outside the U.S.’ borders are protected by Title VII, ADAAA, and ADEA. Excluded from the laws’ protections are “non-U.S. citizens even if they’re working abroad for an American employer or a foreign corporation controlled by an American employer, and U.S. citizens working abroad for foreign entities that are not controlled by an American employer.”

    What is not clear to this scrivener are the protections available to a U.S. citizen employed initially by a foreign company operating in the U.S. , e.g., British Airways, RBC, Zim, who is transferred to a non-U.S. location.

Other U.S. employment laws that may apply include:

  • Fair Standards Labor Act (FSLA) – Does not apply (however local laws may apply).

  • Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA): Applies only in the U.S. and any Territory or possession of the United States (however local laws may apply).

The above is concerned only with U.S. employment law. Employers must be cognizant of laws in force at the (foreign) place-of-employment.

  • Title VII prohibits discrimination and harassment based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin

  • The ADAAA prohibits discrimination based on disability.

  • The ADEA prohibits discrimination against individuals age 40 and older.

CAVEAT: Get advice from your own legal staff.
This blog’s author is not and attorney
nor does he play one on tv.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


It pays to invite
Emergency Services
To visit facilities

An article on the NJ.com site hededcq Boardwalk's unique aspects challenge firefighters reminds that it pays to invite emergency service/public safety personnel – EMTs, fire, police – to participate in risk management planning.

In some instances, e.g., where HAZMAT is on site, this interface with public safety departments may be mandated by local law. In all cases, it is just (a) good business practice, (b) common sense, or (c), both. Failure to include emergency services is foolish and can be costly.

Inviting public safety personnel to visit facilities benefits the organization both in the immediate term and in the event of an “incident.”

NOTE: The follow bullets are NOT “all inclusive.”

Fire brigade:

  • Checks access and exit points to assure all personnel, including mobility impaired (that’s “PC” for handicapped and includes anything from inability to walk sans assistance to vision limitations to pregnancy); does the facility comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act?
  • Checks for adequacy of fire suppression equipment (fire extinguishers, hoses, etc.) and training of personnel to use this equipment.
  • Checks to assure there are exit maps in prominent locations.
  • Checks and maps the location of electrical panels and shut-off switches.
  • Checks and maps the location of all hazardous materials, including cleaning materials that by themselves may be harmless but when combined may form a deadly or explosive gas.
  • May assist in setting up staff fire wardens, setting their functions, and identifying suitable equipment, e.g., short-range two-way radios, powerful flashlights, colorful clothing/head gear)


  • Are all areas where personnel – staff and visitors – congregate safe and well-lit; including parking areas?
  • Are doors and windows secure and alarmed?
  • Are facilities available to secure sensitive documents?
  • Are procedures for identification of staff and visitors, including vendors, in place?
  • Are security-related policies and procedures in place or at least being considered?


  • Checks for presence of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) and training for most likely users.
  • Checks qualifications of first responders and trains if necessary.
  • Checks for suitable litters – are they “stair-friendly,” will they fit into an elevator?
  • Provide a list of recommended over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and other products (e.g., bandages, ointments) that should be on hand for minor emergencies, and trains personnel in their use.
  • Trains staff to recognize signs of stroke, heart attack, and other common medical events where early detection is critical.
  • Early warning signs of stroke and heart attack are given below.

One of the public service agencies, perhaps all, should help establish a procedure to notify the appropriate agency when help is needed. Do people call direct or, better, do people report an instance to a central number (e.g., reception, HR) so that whoever is on duty can (a) send a trained staff responder to assist and (b) call for emergency services.

It also is worthwhile to include insurance adjusters who also can help identify risks. Risk management is not a process that is done by one person.



  • Sudden confusion

  • Trouble speaking or understanding speech

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, hand, or leg (especially on one side of the body)

  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes (such as double vision, blurred vision, or blindness)

  • Sudden trouble walking

  • Sudden dizziness or lightheadedness

  • Sudden loss of balance or coordination

  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

  • Vomiting

  • Seizures (in a small number of cases


  • Pain, fullness, and/or squeezing sensation of the chest

  • Jaw pain, toothache, headache

  • Shortness of breath

  • Nausea, vomiting, and/or general epigastric (upper middle abdomen) discomfort

  • Sweating

  • Heartburn and/or indigestion

  • Arm pain (more commonly the left arm, but may be either arm)

  • Upper back pain

  • General malaise (vague feeling of illness)
  • No symptoms (approximately one quarter of all heart attacks are silent, without chest pain or new symptoms and silent heart attacks are especially common among patients with diabetes mellitus).


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