Lab Explosions Injure Your Kids

If your kids go to school K-12, or college; or if you’re an administrator K-16, be warned that the federal government is—once again—taking sharp notice of lab safety at your school/campus.

Sparked by an explosion with serious injuries in a school in Manhattan on 2 January 2014, the federal Chemical Safety Board (CSB) is hopping mad that schools and campuses at all levels are not listening to their warnings on lab safety. This comes on the heels of OSHA which periodically erupts with inspection activity at schools and campuses like yours re the compliance of their Lab Safety regulations (29 CFR 1910.1450) and their Hazard Communication regulations (29 CFR 1910.1200).

You can review this incident in a New York Times article here and the flash of governmental activity it has triggered in the New Year here.

Emergency Insights

1. Absent a trigger, no government agency will come to your school/campus to inspect your plans and training. BUT, once any kind of incident occurs, everyone becomes an expert. You will be interrogated re why you lack compliant planning and training. The negligence issues at court are always failure to plan and failure to train.

2. You Will Be Reported: All agencies at local, state and federal levels now report to each other when any incident occurs. So, you may only see your fire department at the incident. But FD (and the media) will report you to OSHA, CSB and others. No agency wants to be found negligent in these matters.

3. Done correctly, lab safety planning and training is complex and painful.

4. Pandora’s Box: Once agencies and litigators establish you have no compliant lab safety plan, they will then demand your Emergency Action Plan (29 CFR 1910.38) and Fire Prevention Plan (29 CFR 1910.39). Then your First Aid Plan (29 CFR 1910.151) and your Bloodborne Pathogen Plan (29 CFR 1910.1030). All these regulations are interrelated and must be coordinated by your school/campus.

5. Training: Since all these plans require annual training, the scolds from the agencies and law firms will then ask for your training records for the last three years.

6. We know of one employer who received a letter from OSHA: “Please send us your Emergency Action Plan and your training records for the last three years.” This was done by mail costing 46¢. Devastatingly simple and effective.

7. All these standards are decades old. They are common-sense planning and training procedures for your school/campus and your kids. Given the current atmosphere, your violations will be found Serious (“There is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and that the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.”) and Willful (“A violation that the employer knowingly commits or commits with plain indifference to the law. The employer either knows that what he or she is doing constitutes a violation, or is aware that a hazardous condition existed and made no reasonable effort to eliminate it.”).

8. All this will be hard to explain to your CEO/Head of School, trustees, parents, donors—and your kids.

Call with any questions.

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Interview with Bo Mitchell on Washington DC Radio WFED 1500AM

“Workplace violence seems to be an unfortunate but recurring part of modern life. At the least, it can be two angry coworkers slugging it out. At the worst, it can be a mass shooting murder like the incident Monday at the Washington Navy Yard. This guest is a former police commissioner who specializes in workplace violence. While he says you can’t stop crazy, you can protect yourself, your employees and your visitors. Bo Mitchell has some do’s and don’ts.”

Bo Mitchell, president and CEO of 911 Consulting, was interviewed by Federal News Radio to discuss workplace violence and give some insight into how employees should respond in the face of violence.

Listen to the interview below, and if you have any further questions don’t hesitate to get in touch with Bo by contacting us here.



You can find the original file here (The interview with Bo Mitchell is the fourth interview from the top):—September-20-2013

September 11 and Training

My wife and I just visited the 9/11 memorial at Ground Zero. Emotionally poignant and beautifully done.

This anniversary should remind us about training.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, one company with 2,600+ people present in the South Tower lost just one life. While losing one life is a tragedy, given the mass casualties of that day, it seemed a miracle that everyone else went home safely.

Their safety director helped make that miracle possible.

He had trained and drilled all employees regarding emergency response every quarter for years—in spite of management and employees whining that this was over-the-top. The safety director ignored them. It was his commitment to training and drills that helped saved over 2,600 lives that day.

No company or campus rejects emergency response training as important on an intellectual level. Unfortunately, almost all workplaces resist training on an emotional level.

“Too much time and money” is an excuse disguised as rationale. Some think they can use on-screen training as an on-demand, cost-efficient way to train. Unfortunately, most on-screen training is very thin, aimed at individual workers and not workforces, and—if used solely as employee training—illegal!

Here’s your Emergency Insight:

  1.  Great plans are a smart thing. Training is everything. If we don’t get the words off the paper and into our employees’ heads, we have failed. People don’t rise to the occasion; they sink to their level of training. Those 2,600+ people in the South Tower responded to their training and drills under unthinkable conditions.  They didn’t need to think. They knew how to respond.
  2. OSHA requires that every workplace in America—without exception—shall train all its employees in emergency response annually and at hire. OSHA’s position: “Your first day on the job should not be your last day on earth.”
  3. OSHA requires that training shall be in a classroom with a “qualified” trainer—by dint of training or experience.
  4. The law requires that planning and training be site-specific. By definition, on-screen training does not comply operationally or legally.
  5. On-screen training can supplement. But, it can never substitute for the annual classroom training.
  6. On-screen training may be helpful for an individual. But, if the training is not ubiquitous to all employees, the employer has failed.
  7. By definition and by law, training is based on and aimed at a written plan of site-specific emergency response procedures. The sequencing shall be PLAN, TRAIN, DRILL, EXERCISE. So, training some employees, on-screen re the Active Shooter Protocol—when your plan is non-existent or incompetent on this Protocol—is counter-productive and perhaps dangerous.

National research reports that 85% of your employees believe safety at your workplace is their most important issue—by far, more important than raises, salary and benefits.

I have trained 18,000 employees like yours over the last 11 years. Our anonymous and confidential surveys found that 98.5% of those 18,000 were confident they could respond successfully after having been trained. Frequent employee comments include, “This is fantastic that management did this for us” and “Can we do this more than once a year?”

One day, you may become a miracle maker, just like that safety director in the South Tower on 9/11. Don’t allow whiners to dissuade your commitment. Remember, training is everything.

Please let me know if this was helpful.

Contact Bo

He Said “All-Hazards Emergency Training is Bull”

I recently presented the list of 50+ threats and emergencies for which workplaces shall plan and train to a new client. He said, “Are you kidding me? That’s over the top. You’re piling on stuff we just don’t need. This is bull$*%#!”

Please, please, please don’t go down this path. Resist the siren song of denial. You don’t get to pick and choose your emergencies.

Your emergency planning isn’t like shopping in a big box store with your committee members, each tossing their preferred crisis into your cart.

Instead, it’s like you playing one of your kid’s lightning-paced video games with countless threats popping up—and you’re playing blindfolded.

When an emergency strikes, government agencies—and, inevitably, a judge and jury—won’t care that your actual emergency wasn’t on your shopping list.

They will impose upon you what the national standard (NFPA 1600) and the law (OSHA 29CFR1910.34-39) demand by way of foreseeable circumstances for which you have to plan and train.

All 50+ threats are in the standard and all are foreseeable. Thus, you shall plan and train for them.

Any excuse you offer will be dismissed. Just like in school, “The dog ate my homework” won’t fly.

You may agree with this client that all-hazards planning and training is bull. But the judging authorities will impose their civil, personal and—yes, criminal—standards on your organization (see the compliance section of our site for more information). They are not interested in your opinion.

“You knew or should have known.”

Welcome to the NFL. Suck it up. No whining.

Tell me if this is helpful.

“Let’s be careful out there.”

He asked me, “Are We REALLY Ready?”

A new client gestured to a bookshelf stuffed with planning paperwork and asked me, “Bo, are we really ready?”

It was an insightful question. What is emergency readiness? Just because you have a lot of pages in plans does not ipso facto equal readiness for your next emergency.

So, how do we define really ready?

“Readiness” is the condition we’re looking for. The military, emergency services and you are striving for this one thing: readiness.

Google it. You’ll find 36,700,000 results. None offer a metric for measuring readiness. None help you define readiness for your personnel, boss, board, government agency—or a jury.

So, here’s the emergency insight: a working, useable definition of readiness for your organization. It addresses the three levels of management’s concern—strategic, operational and tactical. All of which can be easily measured by you or any third party.

Emergency Readiness Defined For All Employers

1. Strategic: The state of preparedness where an organization has written plans, current training, logged drills and exercises that structure detailed, all-hazards response to any emergency within minutes.

Plans, training, drills and exercises shall be:
Site specific
Approved by senior management, including the CEO in compliance with federal law
Compliant with OSHA, NFPA 1600 and all other applicable laws and standards to ensure effective emergency response and organizational resiliency.

2. Operational: Effective deployment of personnel, their systems and equipment before the crisis to command, control and communicate. All structured to activate their training and implement their plans during any emergency within minutes.

Emergency Response Team is robust in size and deployment during all hours of operation. If in a mult-tenant space, ERT and building management know each other and have planned, train, drilled and exercised together.
All employees know the deep chain of command established by management.
All ERT commanders carry 2-way radios.
ERT commanders can reliably account for all personnel. Assembly areas are established and well-known to all personnel.
FD and PD have conducted an annual walk-through of our space.
Building management has been engaged and participatory in exercises and any walk-through.

3. Tactical: Effective, practiced response before the crisis as proven by outside, independent auditor/s conducting the exercises. What gets measured gets done.

All senior managers, including the CEO, have participated in 45-minute tabletop exercises quarterly.
There you have it. The answer to, “Are we really ready?” The insight to know and measure actual readiness in your organization.

Let me know if this is useful for you.

“Let’s be careful out there.”

Run, Hide, Fight: The New Response to Active Shooters?

Since Sandy Hook, I get asked daily about “RUN, HIDE, FIGHT,” the new response to an active shooter on a campus or in a workplace. It’s the subject of this past Sunday’s New York Times article.

Let’s start with some facts for context:
Campus shootings are not increasing. U.S. government studies show the number of incidents have held steady or decreased over the last two decades
Campus violence is workplace violence. Schools and colleges are workplaces before they are campuses
Workplace homicides are down dramatically over the last two decades
Workplace violence of all calibers except homicide are on the increase. Harassment to assault to robbery and rape are much more likely than homicide.
So, how does “RUN, HIDE, FIGHT,” add to this conversation?

Mother Mitchell always told me, “Bo, for every complex problem, there is a simple solution–that is always wrong.” Her wisdom applies here.

Police response has changed since Columbine. Police no longer wait for backup. They FIGHT immediately to stop the carnage.

So, should civilians, too, FIGHT shooters at work or at school? Not as a first step, and really almost never. Very few civilians have the training to successfully FIGHT a shooter.

But, this gets complex.

RUN, HIDE, FIGHT have been the standard responses forever to workplace and campus violence, including shooters. Yet RUN, HIDE, FIGHT is not a list of choices. It is a continuum of decision making for intended victims.

First, RUN: Police and experts always recommend that civilians get away from the perpetrator as the first and most effective way of achieving safety. RUN is your first decision.
If RUN can’t work, then HIDE. HIDE is complex. HIDE can be “out of sight” with silence (cell phones off); it can be locking doors and windows and/or covering windows, it can include barricading doors. Complex stuff.
If RUN and HIDE don’t work, then FIGHT. Are you alone? What can be used as weapons? Will turning lights on or off be advantageous? Can you combine with others to FIGHT?
Very complex decision making.

The complexities abound for an employer writing and training procedures for all personnel, whether at work or school.

For instance, will an employer be held negligent for recommending that employees–unarmed and untrained in combat tactics–FIGHT an active shooter who then kills one of those employees? Probably.

Will a head of school be held negligent for telling staff to RUN and HIDE but not to FIGHT, thereby leaving children exposed to an active shooter? Probably.

Yet, in both scenarios, the employer might be applauded by a jury if FIGHT responses were written and trained as last resorts after all else fails.

Emergency Insights:

1. Workplace (and campus) violence are foreseeable circumstances at every workplace in America without exception.
2. The U.S. government has a panoply of studies on the ubiquity and severity of workplace violence. The CDC calls workplace violence “an epidemic.”
3. This is complex stuff. Each employer–campus, corporation and medical facility–shall have site-specific procedures to respond to workplace violence and shall train those procedures to all employees.
4. Employers should collaborate with local police, fire and EMS regarding planning, training, exercises and drills for workplace violence.
5. No one can ignore this, or delay planning, training and drilling.

“Let’s be careful out there.”


I coined this phrase.

My inspiration came from the fact that almost all employers have way too few employees trained to command and control an emergency. On top of this, Murphy’s Law ensures that key people like you will be off campus on other missions when the emergency strikes.

So, how many employees shall we appoint and then train? The federal government and the national standards say that your emergency team be in the 1:5 ratio related to the people you must supervise on your site to include employees, contractors and visitors.

“1:5!!! Are you crazy, Mitchell?” No,, but the national standard and all federal agencies say that 1:5 is the number that private-sector employers should appoint and train. Funny thing: If you analyze your own table of organization, guess how many supervisors you have in proportion to rank and file employees? 1:5! Test me.

Thus, my answer for your organization? Train every fifth employee as your emergency team. If you’re a campus or medical facility, train all your employees as the emergency team. You will need all of them responding because an emergency at your facility requires a robust number of employees to be successful in emergency response.

Back to the “Band.”

In 1991, the Oceanos cruise ship, carrying 571 passengers and crew, sank in the Indian Ocean off South Africa. The very first people to abandon ship in lifeboats were the captain, his senior officers and most of the crew. The Captain and crew never raised the alarm when they abondoned the passengers and their ship. At his trial for negligence, the captain said, “When I give the order to abandon ship, it doesn’t matter what time I leave. ‘Abandon’ is for everybody. If some people want to stay, they can stay.”

He was found guilty.

It took seven hours for everyone else—including some with special needs—to get off the ship. The remaining lifeboats and 16 helicopters ferried all remaining passengers and crew to safety, without major injury.

Absent the Captain and crew, who was in command? The tour director! Her emergency team? The band that had been playing for passengers!

I have seen this episode used in depositions. The accusation will be that you too “abandoned” your employees by not having a big enough emergency team compliant with national standard and trained per OSHA regulations. So, “Train Everyone Including the Band” is my battle cry to any employer.

You have been the champion of emergency planning. I know you agree that delivering thoughtful, disciplined, comprehensive and smart emergency planning and training is our only standard to protect your people and the management’s posterior.

“Let’s be careful out there.”



PS: Google “Train Everyone Including the Band.” The first three to six returns will be about this issue and my coining of this phrase.

OSHA Demands Training for Emergencies From Day One

OSHA requires that emergency training shall be “hands on,” annual, at hire, in a classroom “where questions can be asked and answered,” by a “qualified” trainer (by dint of experience or training). If any of you want to see the brief detailing the citations on this, email me.

Employers always ask me, “When does it mean we train ‘at hire?’ Does that mean day one? Can we wait 30 or 90 days? Or for the next annual training?”

OSHA’s just-issued answer: “A worker’s first day at work shouldn’t be his last day on earth.” This from OSHA’s Director, Assistant Secretary of Labor David Michaels.

His earnest statement concerns Bacardi USA, which hired a temp who was killed by a machine on his first day. The fine ordered is $192,000. See the attached PDF.

OSHA Fines Bacardi $192,000 and Hits Them With 12 Safety Violations

Insight for you: Many employers are comfortable waiting 30-90 days to train new employees or contractors who work on premises for days, weeks or months. OSHA had not given any guidance or enforcement action on timing…until now.
This case is about a manufacturer. Nevertheless, it will be used against you if you are a professional service, campus, medical facility, etc.

“Let’s be careful out there.”