Black History Month: African American Engineers

As Black History Month wraps up, take a look back at all of the African American engineering solutions that have promoted and developed a safer society for us today. From the nineteenth century through present day, there are scores of notable African Americans engineering a safer world.

Do you recognize any of these names?

  • Benjamin Bradley
  • Elijah (Eli) McCoy
  • Granville Woods
  • Garrett Augustus Morgan
  • Frederick McKinley Jones
  • William Hunter Dammond
  • General Hugh Robinson
  • Walt Braithwaite
  • Dr. Aprille Ericsson
  • Dr. Wanda Austin

Listen in as Kevin King discusses Black History Month and the contributions these African Americans have made to influence safety in our society on People’s Law Talk.

Want to hear more talks from Peter and Kevin King? Tune into WCIS 1010 AM Columbus, IN the first and third Friday of every month for People’s Law Talk.


Did You See That? A Cell Phone Distracted World

cell-phone-userQuick, where is your cell phone? A pretty accurate guess for most readers is your cell phone is within arm’s reach, if not in your pocket or your hands. It probably has at least some portion of your attention right now, even as you’re reading this.

With the average person checking their phone 150 times a day, it’s clear that cell phones are ingrained in human behavior. The changes cell phones have made in daily lives has lead to a new, growing safety concern in the form of distracted walking.

Attention (the ability to concentrate on an activity for a prolonged period of time without getting distracted) is shrinking at an alarming rate, resulting in many unintentional injuries. From 2010 to 2011, there were more than 11,000 injuries due to distracted walking! Fifty-two percent of distracted walking injuries occur at home, with 54 percent to people 40 and younger, and nearly 80 percent of these injuries are due to falls. Instead of paying attention to where we are and what we’re doing, we’re trying to multitask and paying the price for it. Need more proof? Watch this video:

The human brain was not designed for divided attention (completing two tasks requiring the same concentration at the same time). When a cell phone user tries to walk at the same time, they’re missing out on significant cues, ultimately walking off course, stepping into traffic, or missing out on what’s going on around them. In a study conducted at Western Washington University, approximately 75 percent of cell phone users suffered from inattention blindness, failing to notice an out of place unicylcing clown in the square where they were walking. Just as inattention blindness contributes to vehicle collisions, it has also contributed to the rise in unintentional injuries from distracted walking.

To fix a safety issue, the typical steps are identifying the hazard and then:

  1. Eliminate the hazard when possible,
  2. Guard against hazards that cannot be eliminated
  3. Warn for hazards that can’t be eliminated or guarded against
  4. Change human behavior when there are no other options.

The hazard of distracted walking poses problems for the traditional eliminate, guard, and warn against options. Cell phones cannot be eliminated from every day life. Options to guard against the dangers of distracted walking are limited. Some restaurants are knocking out cell phone coverage to increase social interaction and minimize distractions but it is not a viable solution for public streets. Warnings can be sent via text/pop up messages but with distracted attention on cell phones, most will not be noticed or will be ignored.

This leaves us with the only, last option, to change human behavior. This is the least effective and slowest moving option for safety. Just look how long it took for regular seat belt usage to be the normal! Teaching ourselves to stop texting, tweeting, sharing, posting, and searching the internet while walking is going to a long, drawn out road. Abraham Lincoln couldn’t foresee the cell phone issue but he recognized human nature. “Human action can be modified to some extent but human nature cannot be changed,” Lincoln said.

Listen in as Kevin King discusses the issue of distracted walking and how it relates to our safety on People’s Law Talk.

It’s a newer, twenty-first century problem, but the statistics and facts on the distractions of cell phones, including the distracted walking hazard, are already rolling in. Check out these resources for more details on the issue:

Want to hear more talks from Peter and Kevin King? Tune into WCIS 1010 AM Columbus, IN the first and third Friday of every month for People’s Law Talk.


A Turf Battle: The Safety Hazards of Synthetic Turf

artificial-turfSpring, along with park visits and soccer games, will return soon. The season will bring the worry parents have about sports safety and playground equipment safety, but there’s an even more concerning safety issues you may not even be aware of. It’s the ground children play on: synthetic turf.

Made from crumb rubber, rubber primarily from recycled tires, synthetic fields contain chemicals, metals, and carcinogens. Manufacturers currently say their fields are safe, the levels of these metals and chemicals are minimal and at safe levels, not posing threats to humans. With more than 11,000 synthetic fields across the country at schools and parks, in addition to many playgrounds that currently utilize crumb rubber, there is a lot of the rubber out there with little conclusive information on the health hazards they pose.

Synthetic fields and rubber filler for playgrounds were supposed to be a solution for the growing used tire problems. It recycled a product that couldn’t naturally decompose and also provided a cheap, long-wear, easy maintenance options for schools and parks. Now, more than anything, the crumb rubber has raised a lot of questions about its safety for those who play in/on it.

A small handful of studies have been conducted regarding the use of synthetic turfs but the studies have not been large enough to concretely determine if there is a risk to health from them. In an interview with the Huffington Post, EPA spokeswoman Laura Allen stated the current existing studies conducted by local, state, and federal government agencies “were not designed, nor were they sufficient in size or scope, to draw conclusions about the safety of all fields across the nation.” With the growing concerns and the lack of research, in 2016 the EPA started new research on recycled tire crumb used in playing fields.

Outside of the limited and ongoing research, multiple people have been informally tracking cancer diagnosis of athletes who regularly played on synthetic fields. Amy Griffin, former goalkeeper for the US National team, has tracked a correlation between artificial fields and cancer diagnosis in more than 200 athletes. Ethan Zohn, a former professional goalkeeper who was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, has also tracked more than fifty athletes that once played on synthetic fields who now have cancer. Though the correlation does not equal causation, there are a lot of similarities in their lists that need to be explored further, including the fact that the majority of these athletes have been diagnosed with Lymphoma, outpacing Leukemia, the most common cancer in young adults.

With mounting concerns and lack of research, some school boards and local municipalities have already put a freeze on installation of new crumb fields, with some going as far to remove and replace fields they already had installed. While we wait on new research from the EPA to be completed, we also need to stop and demand more from the manufacturers. The questions now being posed, the concerns about health related safety of the fields, should have been addressed with thorough hazard and risks analysis before being released as a product option.  Their product engineers are the first line to consumer safety.

What do you think? Are you concerned with the hazards of crumb rubber? Let us know on Twitter and Facebook.

Additional Reading:
Worries Mount Over Potential Link Between Artificial Turf And Cancer from The Huffington Post
Turf Battle: The Controversy Over Crumb Rubber Playing Fields from CBS Denver
Federal Research on Recycled Tire Crumb Used on Playing Fields from the EPA


Santa Claus Surrogates: Toy Safety Guide

toy-safetyIf you’re playing Santa Claus for kids this year, get informed before you do your shopping. There are toys out there on the naughty list for being unsafe and you don’t want to give them to the children you love.

While the burden for toy safety should fall on manufacturers, surrogate Santa Clauses must still be alert. There are over three billion toys sold in the US each year and it’s hard to check all of them for compliance, ensuring manufacturers are following certification processes. In 2007 alone there were 30 million toys recalled, and those are just the ones that were caught. With more than 5,000 toys being introduced in the US each year, enforcement of safety standards is difficult.

From small, breakable parts to chemicals and lead based paint, there is a lot to look for when choosing the perfect toys. Listen in as Kevin King discusses toy safety and what you need to know to find toys safe toys on the nice list.

Additional resources for toy safety information include:

Want to hear more talks from Peter and Kevin King? Tune into WCIS 1010 AM Columbus, IN the first and third Friday of every month for People’s Law Talk.


No Immunity: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Technician Working on FurnaceWith 24/7 news access, it’s not uncommon for us to become desensitized to what we hear and read about. It’s the mindset of ‘it won’t happen to me’  playing out. But in many cases, like instances of Carbon Monoxide poisoning in homes, we’re wrong. It can and does affect anyone.

CO poisoning causes an average of 430 deaths per year. No one is immune. Many people may describe flu-like symptoms when exposed to carbon monoxide. Common short-term exposure symptoms include headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion.  If a CO leak is small and gives long-term exposure, a victim may suffer from intellectual deterioration, memory impairment, and changes in emotional stability. Enough CO exposure in one instance and a person can become unconscious and even die.

Carbon monoxide poisoning caused a total of 5,149 deaths from 1999-2010. Males tend to be three times more affected than females and those older than 65 people more frequently affected than those 25 years or younger. But while the rates of CO Poisoning vary by age and gender, no one is immune. Even the age of your home or your furnace won’t necessarily protect you. New and old homes alike, with both new and old furnaces, suffer from issues that lead to CO poisoning. A key source of CO is a malfunctioning furnace that fails to properly vent this dangerous gas out of and away from the home. A furnace with disconnected or blocked vents, an over-fired furnace, and a furnace that does not receive adequate air for combustion can all cause a carbon monoxide leak.

Though furnaces are a leading source of CO poisoning in homes, they are not the only source. Carbon Monoxide will also occur because of water heaters, portable generators, clogged chimneys, other gas, oil and coal burning appliances, and car exhaust in an enclosed garage.

The first steps in preventing CO poisoning belong to the manufacturer in ensuring their furnaces are manufactured in a way to properly vent carbon monoxide out of the home. Technicians are also a key step in the safety of your home. They should be thoroughly trained on installation and maintenance of furnaces, causes and concerns for CO poisoning, detection of CO leaks, and furnace repairs.

You can also play a key in ensuring your home is safe from CO poisoning. First, it may be tempting to save a few dollars and have the local handy man take a look at your furnace, but the safety of your home is worth the extra money to hire a trained professional. Second, don’t use unapproved heat sources like a portable flameless chemical heater in your home. Last, be sure you have working CO alarms on every floor of your home and near your bedrooms. These are your last line of defense against a deadly gas you cannot see. There are more than 20,000 emergency room visits annually due to CO poisoning, but only one third of US households have a CO alarm. In the same sense that those without smoke detectors are nine times more likely to be injured in a fire, those without CO alarms could suffer longer and more severely without being alerted to a problem.

Learn more about your home and CO poisoning risks. The CDC has basic information about CO poisoning to help you understand the dangers. You can also learn more about how furnaces can cause CO Poisoning in this article from Energy Magazine, originally written by a professor at Iowa State University.


How to Say Thank You to Our Veterans

Salute VeteransThough it’s been overshadowed by the recent election arena, Veterans Day is still coming at the end of this week and it’s time to stop and say thanks.

A major issue for this election, and many elections past, has been how exactly do we say thank you to those who sacrifice their time, their families, their health, and even their life to protect our country and the free world. This question dates back to the Revolutionary War and it still remains unsettled.

Listen to Kevin King’s discussion regarding veteran’s affairs and the history of compensating veterans for their service.

Also, don’t forget to say thank you to some of the 20.5 million veterans in America on Veterans Day this Friday, November 11th.

Want to hear more talks from Peter and Kevin King? Tune into WCIS 1010 AM Columbus, IN the first and third Friday of every month for People’s Law Talk.