Do It Safely or Don’t Do It
When industrial property insurer FM Global blows things up or sets them on fire to learn how to mitigate client losses, someone needs to be looking out for the company’s scientists, loss prevention engineers and technicians.
That someone is Janine Pitocco, FM Global environmental, health and safety manager at the company’s research campus in West Glocester, R.I.
During the past 10 years, under Pitocco’s watch, the number of OSHA-reportable injuries at the carrier’s testing site has been reduced by 70 percent.
That’s been achieved through her emphasis on safety and training programs that emphasize early reporting of unsafe conditions and potentially dangerous acts, said her supervisor, Lou Gritzo, a vice president and research manager with FM Global.
Gritzo said that helping people to work safely — and not cut corners when no one’s around to see it — is simply part of Pitocco’s DNA.
“She makes it part of her colleagues’ as well,” he said.
Pitocco’s job requires expertise and precision.
It also calls for social skills that Pitocco exhibits on a daily basis, said Richard Chmura, the FM Global research campus manager in West Glocester.
Not every environmental, health and safety manager is able to work side by side with lab floor personnel without getting in the way of the operations people, Chmura said.
“It’s imperative to gain the acceptance and cooperation of the operations staff and Janine has the unique ability to do that,” he said.
“We have to ensure,” said Pitocco, “that all of our staff know and believe their personal safety is our highest priority regardless of what challenges are presented.”
“If it can’t be done safely, it won’t be done,” she said.
Pitocco was recently instrumental in creating a safe environment for testing the flammability and toxicity of stored lithium-ion (li-ion) batteries.
Use and storage of the lightweight, rechargeable batteries is ubiquitous. They are used in cell phones, laptop computers, power tools, and other hand-held devices.
FM Global conducted the testing in collaboration with the National Fire Protection Association.
To aid safer research into the risks, Pitocco put together a safety program that protected scientists, engineers and test personnel.
As a result of the testing, FM Global scientists and engineers can now impart the following information to clients and to the business world at large.
• Gases produced as a by-product of a li-ion battery fire required scientists working near the test fire — as well as fire suppression personnel — to wear breathing respirators.
• Those same by-products of combustion also warrant that fire suppression personnel wear chemical resistant suits, boots and gloves during post-fire cleanup.
• Li-ion batteries present several unique fire hazards when involved in a fire, due to an ignitable electrolyte liquid contained within such products.
• When bulk-stored in corrugated board cartons, early fire extinguishment and cooling of the li-ion batteries — using sprinkler systems, in particular — is imperative to properly protect a facility.
Risk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, perseverance and/or passion.