Tag Archives: Safety

Don’t You Read The Manuals First?

A few days ago in Edmonton we watched the neighbor open some adult-proof vacuum-packed tough plastic-enclosed something or other. We never did figure out what Dave was opening, maybe a flashlight combo-pack or something like it. What struck us was how he very carefully, using aviation snips, cut open the package on two sides so he could reach carefully in and extract the instructions.

That’s all he removed, the instructions. Everything else he left in the packaging. And he seemed to read thoroughly the instructions. Wouldn’t it be a sad punch line indeed, for the instructions to say at the bottom, “Do Not read the instructions — install batteries and test device first”?

If you pilot an airplane (not RC, I mean the ones with 30′ to 230′ wingspans) you probably read, retain, and respond to information from, the instruction manuals. I’m pretty sure of this. Some of you probably are active or retired pilots — let me know if I’m wrong on this.

I read an exchange between a couple of pilots today that went sort of like this:

Pilot 1 said, “We’ve always done the event on the second Wednesday, always. It’s in the manual. They should have followed the manual.”

And pilot 2 responded, “What were they thinking? Someone isn’t reading the manual.”

Okay. A couple of us might be guilty of not following what the manual says. And not just on this issue, of scheduling a particular event on the day. There is doubtless great cause for following the manual if you are a pilot. Lots of very bad experiences almost certainly would reflect unfavorably upon their failure to follow prescriptive rules. Even emergencies likely are well addressed in the pilot’s instruction manual? They must be.

There’s an interesting, although not sourced, paragraph on 1950’s military disdain for manuals’ nonreaders in this Wiki article,
“The phrase RTFM was in common use in the early 1950s by radio and radar technicians in the US Air Force. Operators frequently did not check simple faults, for example checking whether a fuse had blown or a power plug had become disconnected.”

Gary KB0H suggests in his nicely written article our failure to read the instruction manuals may not be all our own fault.

Also check out dogbert’s approach this short instructive youtube video on use of manuals — it may not help but is fun.

A long time ago I had responsibility for installation, operation and maintenance of a large hospital’s critical environmental, electrical, and medical gas equipment services. We did this all according to the manuals. There was no other conscionable or effective means of insuring everything was copasetic with the equipment. We operate and maintain our great cowboy cadillac the same way for the same reason — we don’t want any surprises in sometimes critical functioning.

Back to the email exchange between the pilots, they were writing about and copying to another officer of a club. Their resounding smugness was very telling. They apparently read and follow manuals better than some of their younger (and non-pilot) counterparts. A lack of proper training is the problem with young people these days, I tell you!

A few weeks ago I stopped the truck awhile for Deb’s Father’s Day conversation with her pop. Given this downtime in the cowboy cadillac pilot’s seat I wanted for amusement. Messing with Deb was out of the question, important phone call. Didn’t really have time to walk down to the beach and besides, the winds were gusting over 30 mph so truck cab felt pretty good.

Hmm, maybe I can just explore the Kenwood ham radio (TM-D710a) while Deb talks with pop. I scroll through all the many buttons, watching the display in a manner not possible while driving the truck. What’s this button labelled “POS”? First thought goes to Men In Black and the black Ford LTD “POS” — do you remember it? Will Smith called it a POS but was quickly proven wrong as it did flying and other things our parents’ cars never could.

What does this radio’s POS button do? Lo and behold, this function is NOT in the manuals. Notably, neither of the two manuals for this very complicated vhf/uhf radio say a word about reading the manual. I read them both again last night. I do read them each time I have a question about the radio — how do accomplish some programming or task — and the answer is not always there. Hmm, maybe manuals aren’t what they used to be?

But I’ll wager you still read the manuals if you ever did. Dave has this good habit. I don’t. What about you? Which is it?

Jim and Debbie
dreamstreamr odyssey, chasing 75 degrees

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©2007-2012 Dreamstreamr

What would keep them safe?

What if we invented THE way to keep people safer, everywhere? Parents wonder and worry about their children’s safety. The work of safety professionals is to reduce the hazards, or effects of hazards, upon workers. And will our fourth branch of US government resist increasing its nannyist attention to safety of the citizenry? What else could keep people safer?

Last night Jim read some questionable advice on RVing safety on one of the millions of websites concerning full-time RVing. He ranted awhile and finally worked through how he felt about a couple of the suspect points. Okay, no big deal — we aren’t in business to change people and we have our hands full keeping ourselves safe. Why worry about other people?

Still, Jim looks at these issues through his professional lens as a former safety officer. Some things are black and white. Sure, we all know life is full of gray (and not just retiree gray things). The speed limits on our highways are, as our parents told us more than a few times, the MAXIMUM speeds. This is a black and white thing.

Don’t drive impaired, whether impaired by some chemical or by some distraction like texting or cellphone use while driving. This is a black and white thing. But the speed you should drive is definitely a gray thing — according to current conditions (including traffic, weather, road surface), your vehicle, your condition . . .

And safety? What aids have we to pick our way through the almost daily packaged food recalls, four bazillion new chemical compounds formulated in the past few decades, the air pollution present in so many locales, the sun’s UV effects everywhere, and the countless physical hazards anywhere? What would keep people safe?

Jim figured it out last night in an epiphany in those dreaming moments just as he was falling asleep. Here’s his narrative:

I was still turning over in my mind the safety message I sent tonight to a good friend. My message concerned someone else’s clueless and careless statements related to propane safety for RVs. Then I started falling asleep. Suddenly I had images of a myriad of balloons in the RV. The balloons were a variety of colors and sizes.

The biggest balloons, and the brightest colored, were the most hazardous ones. There are dozens and dozens of balloons but not all are so large or bright colored. You cannot thread your way through the balloons without contacting many of them. But you really need to avoid as many of the larger ones as you can. And try to stay away from the brightly colored ones.

You don’t know just what will happen if you bump into this big one, or that one. You’re confident the smaller ones are innocuous, just like rubbing against a smoothed piece of wood won’t likely result in painful splinters in your hand, or touching a warm surface feels better than contacting a very hot surface. Oh, another gray thing, right? The small ones are the small bumps and scrapes most of us tolerate well in everyday living, but what I can tolerate isn’t the same as for you.

How many things do we do that are proven to lead to injury, disease, or disability? A big balloon might be like smoking cigarettes as 1 in 5 Americans do, according to a recent Time Magazine report. Or maybe a big balloon might be obesity, a major relation of diabetes. Unsafe driving (let’s see: too fast; distracted; impaired senses; damaged equipment; others?) is dangerous.

Lighting an open fire inside your RV, now that would be a big and brightly colored balloon, right? If we could readily identify and rank the hazards in our paths, wouldn’t we be safer? All you need do is maximize your safety and health by navigating a path involving contact with the smallest number of big or brightly colored balloons. Maybe, maybe not.

Remember Leon Uris’ story about airlifting the tribal guys back in the 1950s? These resourceful folks got cold back there in the airplane. They understood what would make them warm and they lit a campfire on the steel deck floor of the plane. They didn’t understand the safety hazards of open flame in flight, because they couldn’t see the size or color of the balloons. But the Air Force guys were safety-trained. Open fires in an airplane in flight = very bad safety hazard. A big bright balloon this smoke and flame thing is without adequate ventilation and unavailable exit paths. It can be pretty simple, eh?

My job as a safety director for a large hospital was to market safety to as many people as I could, every day. I wish I could have made it so simple as telling people, “Don’t worry about bumping into the small balloons. But please, whatever you do, try not to hit the big or brightly colored ones.”

Oh, I think we’re back to the black and white versus gray stuff again. You can describe the balloons. You provide empirical evidence of results of contacts with the various sizes and colors of balloons. And some people just won’t believe. Some people, especially the younger ones, haven’t felt hurt, haven’t seen hurt, and don’t believe in it yet. They don’t think your evidence applies to them.

One in five Americans continue to smoke cigarettes, despite the significant short-term expense and the black and white evidence of the long-term health effects. Fifteen to twenty percent of motorists drive their automobiles without their seatbelt fastened, despite the certain risk of sudden and unlicensed flight. Forty to sixty-six percent of drivers ages 18-24 admit to texting while driving.

So the number of people ages 18-24 texting while driving is high, right? And this despite the certainty of impairment and very high probability (if not certainty) of vastly increased liability for resulting accidents.

Hazards, especially those with any degree of deferred effect, aren’t a black and white issue to many people. Even if a hazard really is black and white, we don’t think it will affect us just this once. It may be a sure thing, cause and effect. You do this, and this happens. And some people believe they can beat the odds no matter how slim.

What would keep them safe? I wish it was as simple as avoiding the big balloons.

[Aside: Gee, isn’t saving or not saving money just real similar to this argument?]

Jim and Debbie
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©2010 Dreamstreamr

Effingham, Illinois hospital fire safety

You never know what you’ll find when you turn the next corner. Nor can you guess what will bring you to some findings. Who would expect to find, in our travels, one of the hospitals most significantly contributing to the development our nation’s very excellent fire safety requirements?

We’ve spent the past week in Ramsey, Illinois, visiting with Janet and Mike. Well, mostly we’ve had an enjoyable time house-sitting as Mike spends much of every day visiting the hospital with Janet. She is recovering well from an apparently very successful surgery. St Anthony's Mem Hosp in Effingham, IL

And we’ve driven to Effingham, Illinois, three times to visit with Janet. Each visit to the hospital has impressed me more and more. I spent twenty-five years working in hospital maintenance and safety in four hospitals and one very large multi-hospital system. I’ve never seen as clean or attractive a hospital as Saint Anthony’s Memorial Hospital. If the surgical, recovery, lab, and records departments are as well-run as housekeeping, maintenance, and food service are then this is the hospital for my medical care needs. Best Evac Route sign anywhere

The hospital has an interesting and unfortunate history which almost certainly provides more fire safety for its patients, visitors, and staff. The original hospital, Saint Anthony’s, was built in the late 1800s and was lost to fire. Sixty years ago this April, the hospital suffered a devastating fire in which the hospital was a total loss and seventy four people lost their lives. The community pulled together magnificently and staged a campaign to fund the replacement hospital, named Saint Anthony’s Memorial Hospital in memory of the lives lost in the fire.

The National Fire Protection Agency has fire history lists for many categories including The NFPA’s deadliest hospital fires. The Saint Anthony’s fire is the second deadliest hospital fire on record. The top three are these:
> Cleveland Clinic (Ohio) May 15, 1929, 125 deaths
> St. Anthony Hospital (Illinois) April 4, 1949, 74 deaths
> Mercy Hospital, St. Elizabeth’s Ward (Iowa) January 7, 1950, 41 deaths
Source: NFPA

The cause of fire was never determined. The routes of the fire and smoke, from the basement to the third floor, were clearly defined as the wood-lined linen chutes and the open stairwells connecting all levels of the building. The old building was wood and brick with combustible acoustical upper wall and ceiling panels and with oil cloth on the lower portion of the walls. The building had no compartmentation to restrict the spread of smoke or fire throughout the entire building.

The open stairwells filled early and intensely with smoke and fire and were useless as exits. Three special emergency exits, installed as required by the Illinois Fire Marshall’s Office in 1940, were inaccessible to the building occupants. Smoke and fire raced, unchecked, throughout the corridors, blocking any access to the only available exits.

National hospital requirements for compartmentation, staff fire drills, automatic fire detection, alarm, notification and suppression systems all combine to provide much safer health care institutions. I don’t think there has been a large-loss hospital fire in the United States in many years. The last reported significant American hospital fire was in 1994 with four lives lost (all patients). Improvements to fire safety regulations for hospitals have since reduced or eliminated the contributing factors for three of those deaths.

I suspect Saint Anthony’s Memorial Hospital has been a leader in implementing and demonstrating fire-safe design for hospitals since its construction in 1954. And it appears Saint Anthony’s is providing a safe and clean hospital for the thousands of people it serves every year. My thanks go to the staff, management, and the Hospital Sisters Health Systems.

[NOTE: If you are interested in an exhaustive and well-done analysis and pictures of the Saint Anthony’s fire you can find Hospital fire losses, St Anthony’s here.]




revised 6/18/2009, added two pictures — jmc