Safety Hazards of Shrinking Space on Airliners

If you’ve flown coach lately you know that the space between your seat and the seat in front of you has shrunken over the years. Besides the fact that it makes the flight less comfortable, especially when the person in front of you decides to recline, new studies are looking at whether it might not also be unsafe.

The reason your space has shrunk is because airlines, in an effort to maximize profits, has moved the aisles closer together and added rows. Your space has shrunk from 35″ to as low as 28″. In addition, with airlines now charging for extra bags, passengers are now carrying on larger pieces of carry-on baggage making for even more reduced real estates on the plane, especially when they store them under the seat in front of them.

Questions are now being raised about how safe this reduced space actually is. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has run various evacuation drills but it is being pointed out that these scenarios are run with fit people who are prepared and trained and who are sitting in seats that are 31″ apart. That’s hardly a realistic evacuation. What exactly would happen with a real life evacuation where 1 in 3 passengers were obese (the national average right now) and where the seats were actually 28″ apart as they presently are?

In addition, there is the problem of deep vein thrombosis and air rage (the in-the-air version of road rage) both of which are associated with reduced personal space.

Ultimately, however, if the FAA and DOT determine that seating needs more space, it will result in a price hike which many passengers aren’t going to be okay with either. Caught between a seat and a small space!

Has Safety Gone too Far?

According to Linn’s Stamp News a set of stamps designed to encourage kids to be more active is about to be destroyed because three of the 15 stamps in the set show activities that are done “unsafely” according to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. The offending stamps are 1. an image of a child doing a handstand without wearing a helmet (top row, fourth from the left) 2. a child skateboarding without knee pads (second row, second from the left) and 3. a kid doing a cannoball into a pool (bottom row, third from the left).


The president’s wife Michelle Obama was scheduled to take part in the launch ceremony for the stamps.

What do you say? Should we destroy the stamps or not?

Pat Benatar’s Smart Safety Move

Back on June 21st, Pat Benatar was due to perform a charity benefit concert for WalkerFest charity benefit for Habitat for Humanity, Wounded Warriors and United Way. The concert never took place.


Well according to the promoter, he tried to make it sound as if Pat was just trying to go back on her word.

Not so…

Pat Benatar and her husband along with the band members took one look at the stage and felt it wasn’t safe. Have a look at this photos and see if you agree:


Wooden 2 x 2s with clamps? Really? That’ll hold all that equipment… have you ever tried to lift one of those amps? There’s going to be a lot of weight on that stage and Pat Benatar doesn’t exactly sit on a stool and sing, she kinda gets rowdy!

Here’s another photo:


There’s a reason those vertical posts have holes in them… that’s where the cross braces are supposed to connect to make sure the whole stage doesn’t collapse. By the looks of things the legs are already going in different directions.

Pat Benatar is holding the monies in a separate account and trying to reschedule the concert.

You can read the complete story on the celebrity examiner’s website here.

Home Inspection Nightmares by “This Old House”

Yes, that’s a hot tube and yes, that a rickety deck that’s just waiting to collapse; not to mention the big overhang on the right. This is just one of the 20 unsafe home inspection nightmares on the “This Old House” website this week. Check out the others, like the illegal fireworks next to the electrical problem up in the attic, or the mortar shell or the box of high explosives in the attic.

If you want to view more of these nightmares, this is the 28th set that This Old House has posted. Just type “Home Inspection Nightmares” in the TOH search post to pull up the other 27 sets.

May is “Deck Safety Month”

An unsafe deck, generally looks no different from one that is which is why it is imperative to check it. Most problems are not readily seen and a checklist of items to look for is usually necessary.

Fortunately, Fine Homebuilding provides just such a list.
The interactive list is provided in the form of an image of a deck with 8 items that you mouse over to reveal a pop-up box detailing how to check for that particular potential problem.


You can also download a hard copy pdf of the Deck Evaluation Checklist which is available from the North American Deck and Railing Association website.

Before you fire up the BBQ and get all your friends together, make sure the party doesn’t end in disaster, the check list should take about an hour. That’s an hour well spent.

Think you don’t need the checklist? Test yourself with the Fine Homebuilding Inspector Game for the Dos and Don’t of Decking

Safety Fails

I’ve posted a few of these “Fails” as related to safety over the years on this blog (a list of some of them came be found on this page, another list on this page) and, because there are still quite a few people who are either too stupid to realize or just don’t care, we continue to find even more of them. So I’m going to start posting these on a semi-regular basis (I know that many of you use them in your safety meetings and welcome new ones). If you’ve got some that I haven’t posted yet (See the page links above), please send them to me at and I’ll make sure that they get included in future “Safety Fails” posts.

Well at least this guys’ wearing a hard hat. That should help if the rock crashes down on him.

Apparently no one ever explained to these guys that scaffolding is supposed to be erected along the side of the building rather than at a 90 degree angle.

Apparently this guy’s roommate has really stinky feet…

Most men don’t like their mother-in-law but this guy’s going a bit far in not making her feel welcome.

At least this mother-in-law found something to do while she was out there.

Unsafe Conditions – The Deadly Dozen # 11

11. Hazardous atmospheric conditions

Confined Space monitoring, Respiratory protection, air sampling, particulate count… all of these have to do with hazardous atmospheric conditions. Man was meant to breathe clean, pure air, not contaminated air. Unfortunately, the workplace is often not the place for clean air. Whether we are talking about particulates in the air that have the potential for explosion (see our posts on the dust explosion at imperial sugar) or airborne contaminants that are harmful when inhaled (See our recent post on the 16 new chemicals added to the toxic list, for example) it’s not surprising to find today’s unsafe condition in the top 12 “deadly dozen”. Unfortunately workers are often unaware of the hazards that they are being exposed to. Many substances are odorless and undetectable except through careful and regular monitoring.

The Fix

While the solution is essentially simple “Make sure that the air you are breathing is pure!” the practical application isn’t. Detecting and regulating the purity of the air can be somewhat problematic and difficult. Because working conditions change so often (new chemicals are brought in, leaks occur, dust settles, etc…) an air sample taken one minute might be dramatically different from one taken just a few minutes later. There is no simple, easy answer then to the question of clean air. The only answer is continual awareness.

Have conditions changed? Has a new chemical been brought in? Is anything happening that might cause an oxygen deficiency?

Understanding how and why air can become contaminated is important in knowing when a potential hazard might exist. Monitoring the air quality then becomes important in order to access the levels of contaminants in order to protect adequately.

For more information on respiratory protection, see do a quick search in the search field at the top of this page using terms such as “respiratory” or “air monitoring”.

Unsafe Conditions – The Deadly Dozen # 10

10. Poor lighting, high noise levels.

Bill Cosby used to have a routine where he talked about the fact that his mind is in a battle with his body. He said that whenever he gets up in the middle of the night his hand reaches to the light switch but his brain stops his hand telling him that he doesn’t need the light. Meanwhile as he tells it, his toes are saying “No, turn on the light! Come on, please turn on the light!”.

As funny as he is to listen to when he delivers this routine, he makes a good point about the cause of accidents when environmental conditions (lighting, noise levels, etc… ) aren’t as they should be.

Poor lighting conditions keep us from properly seeing the hazards that we should. Even low lighting which we wouldn’t normally think of as “poor”, can hide dangers. When additional light is brought in workers will often realize how poor the lighting really was.

High noise levels keep us from hearing others. They also cause us to be “lulled” by the noise into not paying attention, into “zoning out” and not paying attention.

The Fix

Today’s fix is fairly straight forward. For low light, add light. Pay attention to the quality of the light as well. Full spectrum lighting not only illuminates better but also helps with moods by providing the same quality of light that outdoor lighting does.

For high noise levels, the fix is a little more complicated. The first step is, of course, to try to engineer the problem away (this is always the first step). Sound barriers, insulation, upgrading the equipment, moving the noisy equipment to a more remote location or isolating it completely should be explored first. Only when these measures have been exhausted should hearing protection be used. For more information on hearing protection (including making sure that you don’t over protect workers) check out our series on “The Basics of Hearing Protection“.

Unsafe Conditions – The Deadly Dozen # 9

9. Hazardous tools, equipment or materials

It is said that knowledge is power. It is also life when it comes to hazardous tools, equipment or materials. Knowing where danger exists, knowing why a particular tools or piece of equipment is potentially hazardous is the first step in protecting against it. You wouldn’t give a baby a chainsaw to play with; no more should you start using equipment and tools without knowing how to use them safely.

Today’s condition is, of course, extremely general and generic and there is no way to specify all the dangers and hazards involved in all the tools, equipment or materials that you might use in the course of your job; nor, in fact, is there a need to.

The Fix

As I mentioned at the start, the answer to the problem is knowledge. Learn, train and refresh. Understand the dangers, learn the potential issues and take the necessary precautions. It’s really that simple. You wouldn’t climb in the cockpit of a 747 and try to take off without a pilot’s license because you understand that what you don’t know will kill you. Every new tools, every new piece of equipment and every new material should be treated with the same caution. Read and make sure you understand all the safety precautions. Periodic refresher courses can help keep current with changes and technological advances.

If it means feeling silly asking a question, if it means feeling a little less macho, so be it. After all, no one looks macho in a pine box.