Catholic Cemeteries

Catholic Cemeteries

Catholic Cemeteries Learning From The Best – Cemetery Safety Training
By Jack Fahey, Chairman of Catholic Cemeteries of Chicago’s Environmental Advisory Committee

Catholic Cemeteries of Chicago has been conducting safety training for field employees for many years. This training has included: confined spaces, trenching/shoring and respirators to name a few. We have been very fortunate to employ the services of Michael J. Kelly and the START Safety Techniques and Rescue Training) Group for the majority of our training classes.

Michael J. Kelly is a very experienced trainer. His background includes providing loss control consulting and training on confined space entry and rescue, trenching/excavating, respirator use, fire brigade activities, emergency traffic control, and other life safety/technical rescue areas. He is well versed in writing Standard Operating Procedures and policies regarding these areas of expertise along with emergency response activities and protective clothing/equipment requirements.

Michael retired as a Battalion Chief (after 30 years of service) from a municipal fire department in the Chicago area. He served as his fire department’s training officer, equipment coordinator, and technical rescue coordinator. He has also worked extensively as a Certification Specialist for the Illinois Office of the State Fire Marshal. In addition, he has served as a member of the Illinois Office of the State Fire Marshal Ad Hoc Committee for developing technical rescue certification and curriculum. Michael spoke to the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) in both 2003 and 2004 regarding Chapter 6I and emergency responders and was selected to be part of the Federal Highway Committee in 2005. Michael holds a B.A. in Fire Service Management from Southern Illinois University. He holds the following Illinois State Fire Marshal certifications:

  • Confined Space and Trench Awareness
  • Vertical Technical Rescue
  • Advanced Confined Space Technical Rescue
  • Trench Technical Rescue
  • Hazardous Material Response Operations
  • Hazardous Material Incident Command
  • Rescue Specialist – Roadway Extrication
Additional certifications include:
  • Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Emergency Traffic Control

I met with Michael to interview him for Catholic Cemetery magazine. He has been a great resource for Catholic Cemeteries of Chicago and I thought he might be able to assist other cemetery associations.

JF: How did the START Group begin?

MK: The company started out as Michael J. Kelly, Safety Consulting, Inc. in 1992. My first jobs were teaching as an instructor at the Arlington Heights (IL) Academy and the Wood Dale (IL) Fire Department along with working as a safety consultant for Gallagher Bassett Services, Inc. The work at Gallagher Bassett focused primarily on special topics (i.e. confined space, trenching, and respirators) and Chicago Public School safety evaluations.

In 1995, START Group (Safety Techniques and Rescue Training) was created to allow for growth and additional staffing demands. With these changes, additional focus was created to include large industrial clients. START Group then reached out and secured several emergency response instructors, many of whom are experts in technical rescue and specialist training. These staff additions brought us to our present level of 30 instructors.

JF: What jobs has the START Group been involved in?

MK: START Group has a really diverse client base and delivery of services. We provide service to many small companies and government agencies, but also deal with larger clients. For example, START Group has provided technical rescue training to emergency response personnel for Abbott Laboratories in Illinois, Arizona, and California for over seven years. In addition, START Group personnel have provided over 120 days of annual training to Midwest Generation, the purchasers of eight Illinois fossil fuel coal plants from Commonwealth Edison. START Group has taught over 200 days of transit safety and security training for emergency responders at the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority and the Miami-Dade Transit Authority. START Group personnel have authored and created more than ten quick reference guides for OSHA compliance and emergency responders, along with developing over 100 training programs.

JF: In your opinion, what are the main safety concerns of a cemetery?

MK: Cemeteries have many of the same safety concerns as many public works and construction personnel. These issues focus on general industry (i.e. respirator use, right-to-know, confined space entry) and construction (trenching, fall protection) issues. Yet, the environments in which the workers complete their tasks are markedly different (crematories, mausoleums).

In addition, cemetery workers are frequently isolated from other work groups by the nature of their work and the locations for completing this work, and, many of the cemetery workers have been doing this type of work for many years.

This isolation and long tenure can frequently cause cemetery workers to be resistant to changes in their work practices, especially with regard to safety related issues.

JF: Give short descriptions of the training that the START Group provides in the following areas:

MK: Confined Space – START Group provides evaluations of an agency’s current level of compliance, focusing on policies, procedures, and equipment, and completing a confined space inventory which is a frequently missed aspect of compliance. In addition, both classroom and skills training are provided. These training sessions involve equipment use and entry into actual spaces (sewers, vaults, crypts).

Fall Prevention – START Group provides evaluations once again of an agency’s current level of compliance. Classroom and skills training are provided. The training sessions involve equipment use and work from elevated positions (bucket trucks and lifts).

Trenching/Shoring – Evaluation of the current level of compliance, focusing on policies, procedures, and equipment. Provide both classroom and skills training. The sessions involve working in live trenches during actual operations or in trenches built for each training session.

First Aid, AED (Automated External Defibrillators), CPR – START Group provides American Heart Association classroom and skills training on First Aid, CPR, and AED’s.

This training is truly enhanced by the everyday experiences of our instructors, most of whom are practicing paramedic and/or EMT certified personnel.

JF: In your opinion, what is the next major area of concern in the workplace?

MK: I do not believe that there is any new or critical evolving concern in the workplace. Rather, I believe that reductions in work forces will cause increased stress on safety in our workplaces. The “do more for less” philosophy frequently means that our workers are doing tasks alone that they normally would have completed with co-workers and/or supervisors. The lack of this supervisory oversight or second set of hands frequently puts workers at risk

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