The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were over 200,000 cases involving falls, slips, trips in 2012, and that’s not counting the ones that went unreported.
Many safety professional believe that these accidents are among the most under reported incidents. If you add in the slip or trip injuries that are reported incorrectly because they resulted in strains and sprains or are “bodily reaction” (a slip/trip/balance issue that didn’t result in impact)?
This issue affects companies worldwide. A 2013-14 report from Great Britain estimated that falls and slips & trips accounted for over a third of all employee injuries
The level of these injuries has been holding steady over the last few years, and even with best engineering and administrative controls, PPE, and training the number don’t change much.
Perhaps it’s time to consider another option, instead of focusing on what happened and who is responsible; it’s time to examine “why did it happen?”
There are studies indicating that mental factors can cause accidents. Attention lapses and distractions may account for many of these incidents.
A noted psychologist sees attention as having two dimensions: width and direction. Width means what you see and/or hear or smell or feel can be too broad or too fine. Direction refers to where you focus, either internally (proper procedures, a chronic pain in part of body, etc.) or externally (your surrounding or environment). We may so focused on our task that we fail to see that we could have walked around that slippery area, or are trying to be so externally aware that we didn’t notice we were holding our breath when walking on a slippery surface.
When you combine the estimate that 90 percent of the brain’s energy output is used for maintaining balance in space with other factors, it becomes easier to understand the even the most conscientious workers can become distracted.
The primary contributing factors most often cited are fatigue, stress, and age.
If workers are pushed, or pushes themselves too hard to keep up with their workload, physical and mental exhaustion can result. This can lead to impaired judgment, slower reflexes, a delayed response to emergencies, and inattention to details and instructions.
Job security, finances, health, and anxiety about personal issues can all increase a workers stress. When employees are distracted by real or perceived threats, they are more likely to make mistakes that could cause injury, and are more susceptible to increased risks of a heart attack, stroke, or hypertension.
Aging workers are more at risk for slips, trips, and falls. Than younger workers. The reasons for this can be:
It takes older people longer than younger people to reestablish their balance, due to lessened sensitivity of nerves in the inner ear that detect changes in balance.
Older workers may no longer have the leg strength to compensate for a slight loss of balance that can result in any misstep.
Vision changes that make it harder to see and adjust to surface changes or obstacles.
Loss of joint flexibility that can reduce agility
A fixation with the task at hand, a lack of awareness about your surroundings, and the inability to react to changing conditions, may all be contributing factors in slip, trip, and fall incidents.
Workplace safety isn’t just training and equipment; it’s a state of mind.
Near miss reporting is a fundamental piece of a strong safety culture. While OSHA doesn’t require near miss reporting, companies capturing that information can gain insight into potential problem areas. Understanding the difference between incidents, near misses, and accidents is important when developing a comprehensive safety meeting topics.
An Incident is an unplanned, undesired event that hinders completion of a task and usually causes injury, illness, or property damage. The terms “unplanned and undesired” don’t mean unpreventable, nor do they mean that you can’t prepare for them. Analysis and planning are how we prepare for serious incidents that may occur, and how we take action to eliminate them.
A near miss is defined as an incident that could have resulted in injury, illness, or property damage, but didn’t. Near misses, also known as ‘close calls’, should really be near hits.
The definition of accident is similar to that of incident, but implies that the occurrence was unpreventable. An accident, using this definition, contradicts the basic concepts of a safety program, which is to find and fix hazards, and prevent incidents. If we accept that accidents have no cause, that means they are unpreventable, and they will happen again.
Training employees on the importance of reporting near misses not only will raise their awareness of potential hazards; it moves your safety program from a purely reactive mode toward a more proactive effort. Near misses are often a precursor to more serious incidents, and may be a warning that procedures and practices need to be examined.
The reporting and investigation of near misses can be instrumental in preventing injuries. Near misses are really a zero-cost learning opportunity, because it signals a potential problem without resulting in injury or loss.
If your current safety program doesn’t include the mandatory reporting of near misses, perhaps it should. Consider implementing near miss reporting the next time you review your safety program, which you should do annually. This commitment to continuous improvement will demonstrate the importance of safety to your company to all employees.
Life doesn’t always give us warning signs, but when it does, we should heed them. Having an internal near miss reporting and investigation procedure as part of your safety program is heeding one of those signs. Being able to anticipate and avoid incidents is far less costly than reacting to one. An ounce of prevention could be worth someone’s life.
Unless you live in Arizona, Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, or the Virgin Islands you will probably be changing your clocks this weekend as Daylight Savings Time (DST) begins this Sunday March 8th at 2 A.M.
The larger question these days is “Why do we even have daylight savings time?” DST was started during WW I as a way to conserve energy. The use of daylight savings time was unpopular and was halted after the war. It was re-instituted during WW II. Because there was no U.S. federal law requiring the use of DST following WW II, the states were free to implement DST on their own.
This created interstate commerce and transportation scheduling problems, and resulted in the passage of the Uniform Time Act in 1966. The act mandated time changes in April and October (spring ahead and fall back), but also allowed states to opt out of using DST.
Enforcing DST is the responsibility of the Department of Transportation (DOT)
Although created to conserve energy, recent DOT studies have shown that in today’s world, any potential energy savings is lost to the use of computers, TV’s, and other electronic devices. Not only does DST not save energy it can also negatively affect your health.
Researchers in Stockholm found that the number of heart attacks rose about 5 percent during the first week of daylight saving time. The New England Journal of Medicine suggest that this rise may result from the disruption of sleep patterns and biological rhythms.
Today most of the U.S., Canada, and Europe observe DST, and if you live where it’s observed, here are some tips to help you adjust to it.
Start going to bed 15 minutes earlier several days before the start of DST, and move your bedtime up by 15 minutes every couple of nights
If you feel sleepy the Sunday after the change to DST, take a short nap (15 to 20 minutes) in the early afternoon. For some, napping can make nighttime sleeping harder, while for others, a short nap can be refreshing without ruining their night’s sleep
Avoid sleeping in longer in the morning
Try to go to bed and waking up at the same time each day, as this will help regulate your sleep. If possible, get up at the same time on weekends, too, this makes getting up on Monday mornings easier
With the change in daylight, try to incorporate a little more exercise and a little more sleep each day
There are currently renewed efforts underway to abolish DST because of the lack of any evidence that it’s beneficial. It may well be that the only positive about the beginning and end of DST is that it serves as a reminder to check and or replace your smoke detector batteries. If you have any questions about topics for safety meetings contact us today.
Planning for an OSHA inspection with the proper safety meeting topics is good business. Take these 5 steps to prepare for a surprise worksite inspection and you’ll also have a solid foundation of safe work practices.
When you apply to have OSHA’s safety and health professionals evaluate the worksite, anything they find that needs to be fixed won’t result in a compliance citation as long as it is put right.
2. Make sure you and every other employer understands their responsibilities when it comes to the hazards at each worksite.
Known as the “three Cs”, OSHA can cite employers if they: create the hazard, have control of the worksite, or are responsible to correct the hazard. This means different employers can be cited for the same hazard based on their responsibility for it.
3. Establish your rights.
Ask why the OSHA inspector is at your worksite because they need a legitimate reason. This probable cause can be: reported cases, complaints, targeted inspections or expressed points of emphasis, planned inspections, and even a compliance officer seeing a violation from the street.
Ask for a copy of the complaint/reason before they begin the inspection.
You have the right to restrict an inspection to the scope of the reason they are there. This could be a fatality, reported incident, or complaint. But be aware that anything the inspector sees during that inspection is fair game.
4. Know that OSHA can ask any employees questions in a private interview.
So the employer should make sure every employee can explain they know how to be safe at the worksite.
This also means they don’t have to answer any questions. If it’s the end of a long work day, and they have arranged a carpool, or if they are just shy they don’t have to answer any questions. Just don’t tell the workers you don’t want them to answer any questions, it’s their right to decide if they want to or not.
5. Managers will receive extra scrutiny, so train them up.
Whoever is responsible for the safety of others must know how to ensure it, including being aware of the hazards and the safe ways to mitigate them. The threshold for what OSHA considers a manager is low and includes: working lead, acting foreman, and competent person.
Other Safety School articles that examine the more academic concepts of occupational safety:
Every year workers are killed or seriously injured while performing snow or ice removal from the rooftops of commercial, residential, and other building structures. Snow removal operations are often performed under extreme weather conditions by workers who may have little experience or training on the hazards of the job which is why having a safety manual can become very important.
Snow removal may be necessary to prevent overloading and collapse or for construction or repair of decking or roofs. Workers often climb directly onto the roofs or structures and use shovels, snow rakes, or snow blowers to remove ice and snow. Other times these operations are done from aerial lifts used to access roofs and apply de-icing materials, or from ground level using ladders and snow rakes.
Falls are the most common cause of worker fatalities and injuries during rooftop snow removal. Workers can fall off roofs, through skylights, or from ladders and aerial lifts.
In addition to falls, workers removing snow, face other significant hazards including:
Injuries from using snow blowers and other mechanized equipment
Collapses or tip-overs of aerial lifts
Becoming engulfed by falling snow
Being shocked/electrocuted from contacting power lines or using damaged extension cords
Frostbite or hypothermia
OSHA requires that employers plan and use the safe work practices to protect workers during snow removal activities. Before snow starts to accumulate, think about what will be needed to remove snow from roofs or other elevated surfaces safely:
Can the snow be removed without workers going onto the roof?
Are there any hazards on the roof that could become hidden by the snow and will need to be marked so that workers can see them (skylights, roof drains, vents, etc.)?
How to remove snow based on the building’s layout to prevent unbalanced loading?
Determine the maximum load limit the roof can handle, and compare that to the estimated combined weight of the snow, the removal equipment, and workers on the roof
What tools, equipment, PPE, clothing, and footwear will workers need?
What training will workers need?
How will snow removal equipment be moved to the roof?
How will you protect workers and others on the ground from the snow and ice being removed?
Remove Snow Without Going on the Roof
Whenever possible, use methods to clear ice and snow that don’t require workers to go on the roof, such as using ladders to apply de-icing materials or using snow rakes or draglines from the ground.
Use Required Fall Protection
Falls cause most of the deaths and severe injuries that occur during snow removal operations. OSHA requires employers to evaluate and protect workers from fall hazards when working at heights of 4 feet or more above a lower level (1910.23), 6 feet, or more for construction work (1926.501).
If workers must access roofs and other elevated surfaces to clear snow:
Train them on fall hazards and the proper use of fall protection equipment,
Ensure all workers use their fall protection equipment when removing snow in areas that are not adequately guarded
Have workers put on their fall protection equipment before accessing the roof
Have a written rescue plan in case a fallen worker becomes caught by a fall protection system
Remove or mark rooftop or landscaping features that could present trip or fall hazards
Workers at ground level removing snow from the roof, and bystanders, can become trapped under snow falling from roofs and suffocate. Snow being removed for a roof can be dangerous. One cubic foot of dry snow weighs about seven pounds, while a cubic foot of wet snow weighs anywhere from 12 to 18 pounds. To protect personnel from removed snow:
Identify a safe work zone in the area where snow is being removed to keep the public back 10 feet from where snow is expected to fall
Instruct workers to wear eye and head protection when removing snow and ice.
Instruct workers using snow rakes and draglines to remove only small amounts of snow at a time.
Effective planning and preparation can protect workers and the public from injuries during snow removal work.
Hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) also known as “Dead Finger” or “Dead Hand” causes symptoms in fingers, hands, and arms from using vibrating tools, or by working with machinery that vibrates. HAV, formerly vibration white finger, was renamed to HAVS, as other symptoms may occur in addition to white fingers.
HAV, may appear shortly after starting a job, or may not appear until years later. The harmful health effects of vibrating tools are related to the length of time that a worker has been using vibrating tools and to the frequency of the vibration. The length of time person uses a vibrating tool, and the speed at which the tool vibrates, increases the risk of HAV.
The technical name for HAV is Raynaud’s Syndrome of Occupational Origin. Raynaud’s Syndrome can occur in people who do not use vibrating hand-held tools, and a number of medical illnesses can also cause Raynaud’s Syndrome.
Many symptoms of HAV syndrome will disappear when worker stops using tools vibrate the hands and arms. The muscle fatigue and pain in the arms and shoulders associated with HAV also will generally disappear. In the early stages, if a worker stops using vibrating tools, HAV will not get any worse and may get slightly better.
Preventing hand-arm vibration
Employers can implement the following steps to help prevent HAVS in workers who use vibrating tools:
Hold tools loosely, and in different positions.
Ensure that tools are well-maintained
Use the right tool for the job.
Keep warm while at work – especially your hands.
You should not smoke – the chemicals in tobacco can affect blood flow.
Jobs should be redesigned to minimize the use of hand-held vibrating tools.
Replace high vibration tools with improved, low vibration tools that are designed to absorb vibration
Whenever possible, substitute a manual tool for a vibrating tool.
Determine vibration exposure times and implement work breaks to avoid constant exposure. A worker using a vibrating tool continuously should take a 10 minute break after each hour of using the tool.
Employees who are required to use vibrating hand-held tools should receive training about the hazards of vibration and they should be taught how to minimize the ill effects of vibration.
Smokers are much more susceptible to HAV that non-smokers and the HAV in smokers is usually more severe. For this reason, workers who use vibrating hand-held tools should not smoke.
Workers whose occupations will place them at risk of developing HAV should have pre-employment physicals, and then be checked at least annually for symptoms.
Workers that have a history of abnormalities in blood circulation and especially workers who have Raynaud’s Syndrome should not be permitted to use vibrating hand-held tools.
If workers develop symptoms of tingling or numbness, or if their fingers occasionally become white or blue, or painful, should be examined by a doctor familiar with the diagnosis and treatment of HAV.
Workers who have moderate to severe symptoms of HAV should be reassigned to work that does not involve using vibrating tools.
It is not clear how vibration causes hand-arm vibration syndrome. It is probably due to slight but repeated injury to the small nerves and blood vessels in the fingers. Up to 1 in 10 people who work regularly with vibrating tools may develop HAVS.
Temporary tingling or numbness immediately following the use of a vibrating hand tool is not considered HAV, however tingling and numbness in the fingers lasting more than an hour after finishing work may indicate early stages of HAV.
February is workplace eye safety month. Eye injuries in the workplace are common occurrences. More than 2,000 people injure their eyes at work every day. About 10% of those injuries result in one or more days of lost time, and about 10-20 % will cause temporary or permanent vision loss. On average, more than 700,000 workers injure their eyes at work each year luckily, 90% of all workplace eye injuries are preventable by using proper safety eyewear.
Workplace eye safety should be a priority regardless of your type of business. Here are some basic ways to prevent eye injuries at work. Assess:
• Examine your business operations
• Inspect all work areas, access routes, and equipment for eye hazards
• Study your company’s’ eye accident and injury reports
• Identify the operations and areas that present eye hazards Test:
• Employee vision problems can cause accidents
• Incorporate vision testing into routine employee physical exams Protect:
• Select protective eye wear that’s designed for the specific duty or hazard
• Protective eye wear must meet the current federal OSHA or state standards Participate:
• Create a 100% mandatory eye protection program in all operation areas of your business
• An all encompassing program prevents more injuries and is easier to enforce than one that limits eye protection to certain jobs Fit:
• Workers need comfortable protective eye wear that fits well
• Have eye wear fitted by a trained professional
• Provide repairs for protective eye wear and require each worker to be in charge of his or her own PPE Plan for an Emergency:
• Establish first-aid procedures for eye injuries
• Have eyewash stations readily available, especially where chemicals are used.
• Train all workers in basic first aid and identify others for more advanced training. Train:
• Create and conduct ongoing eye safety training and emphasize the need for protective eye wear.
• Include eye safety to your regular employee training programs, and to new employee orientation. Support:
• Management support is key to having a successful eye safety program.
• Managers and supervisors need to show their support for the program by wearing protective eye wear whenever and wherever needed. Review:
• Review and update your accident prevention policies annually. Your goal should be NO eye injuries or accidents! Put it in Writing:
• Put your eye safety program in writing
• Post a copy of the policy in work and employee gathering areas
• Emphasize your eye protection policy during new employee orientation
Although the type and quality of eye protection used, safety glasses, goggles, or faceshields are important, they are only effective if employees use them. Emphasizing and enforcing your eye safety policy is the foundation of workplace eye safety.
As the holidays approach, anticipation and apprehension grows around the “Company Holiday Parties.” While these gatherings provide excellent opportunities to relax, network with co-workers, and hone your interpersonal skills, they also come with risks. Whether you’re employer or employee, here are some tips that could help you avoid holiday horrors, avoid regrettable incidents, result in career suicide, or worse.
Holiday parties often include alcohol, and this is frequently a source of problems. It loosens tongues and inhibitions, and frequently leads to other troubles. Consider the following suggestions when planning or attending a company gathering.
As an Employer:
Decide if you’re going to serve alcohol; If you do, it’s a good idea to have a hosted bar where professionals can monitor employees alcohol intake. A simple way to control alcohol consumption is to issue drink tickets to attendees to help limit intake.
You can also consider having a non-alcoholic party. Having a more family oriented party theme or a breakfast or lunchtime gathering are good ways to do this. While excluding alcohol at a company event may not be popular with the guests, it greatly reduces any potential liabilities.
If you’re offering drinks you should also provide food. This helps reduce the amount of drinks consumed, and limits their effects.
As an Employee:
Know your limits and pace yourself. Even though it may be after hours and offsite, it’s still a company event and you should conduct yourself as you would at work.
Keep in mind at the end of the party; you’ll still need to get home safely.
Approach this social meeting as an opportunity to build work relationships and get to know co-workers better. It’s not the time to release pent up frustrations or animosities.
DANGEROUS OR ILLEGAL ACTIVITIES
As an Employer:
It’s best to assume that unintended or undesired activities will occur, and be prepared for them. Be alert for signs of intoxication or sexual harassment. As mention before alcohol lowers inhibitions and may cause normally mild mannered, reserve people to do things that could result in legal actions later.
As an Employee:
Keep in mind that your workplace isn’t a dating service. Just because a co-worker is pleasant and smiles at you doesn’t mean they want to have a personal relationship. Don’t say or do anything that you’ll regret later, or that could damage a good working relationship.
Don’t bring your own party to the party. Anticipating that the party is going to “be lame”, doesn’t justify bringing your own supplies to it. People may bring their own quantities of alcohol or illegal drugs to the event in order to “spice it up.” Just as in the workplace it’s your responsibility to report any of these activities you see.
Holiday parties are a great way to celebrate a successful and productive year, and possibly recognize top achievers, but they can also be stress creators.
As an Employer:
Some of your best workers may not be social animals, so don’t make the party mandatory. Some employees may choose not to attend for a variety of reasons such as religion or other commitments. You never want to give the impression that attendance, or lack thereof, will have any impact on someone’s career.
As an Employee:
Remember, even though the party is a company-sponsored event, it’s not the time to talk shop or ask your boss for a raise. These are topic you should save for the workplace.
Use your time at the party to get to know others better. It’s an opportunity to find co-workers who have similar interests or hobbies.
As you prepare for holidays, you tend to focus your attention on family and friends. Allocating some time toward staff and co-workers can not only improve the atmosphere in the workplace, it can prove enlightening and increase your understanding and appreciation for everyone there. Remember these tips to make sure your holidays are safe and happy.
As winter approaches, many construction related businesses experience a lull in work. Here are some things you should do to winterize your business, make effective use of the time, and prepare for when work picks up again.
Now is a good time to conduct a physical inventory of all tools and PPE. Any materials that can’t be accounted for should be reconciled or replaced. It’s a good idea to check the dates when items were put into service, and review the expected life cycle of them.
A slow season is an excellent time to thoroughly inspect and make necessary repairs on the equipment you’ve used all year. All motorized equipment should be checked, tuned up, and worn parts replaced. Belts, hoses, and fittings of compressors and hydraulic equipment should be high on the list of items to be inspected. All hand and power tools need to inspected and repaired or replaced.
All personal protective equipment needs to be checked for damage and wear; this is especially true of fall protection equipment. Hard hats and eye protection devices should be checked for cracks, scratches or other damage.
In addition to making sure that all machinery has fully functional and properly installed safety guards, now is a good time to inspect fire extinguishers and first aid kits to ensure they are functional and fully stocked.
Now is also a good time to review your safe work, hazard control practices, and see if there are any changes that will improve workplace safety. This can be done by having review sessions with supervisors and workers to review the current practices and get input from those familiar with the work.
During a slow season, employers should consider conducting equipment and/or safety training for employees. This could include training on first aid, new equipment, and any changes in work practices. If you have workers that will be working outdoors during this season, training on cold stress should be delivered now.
This is also a good time to review your hew hire training program to make sure it covers everything necessary. This will allow you to be ready for the wave of new employee training that will accompany the return of the busy season.
Winterizing your business allows you to make efficient use of time and resources now, and will make sure you’re ready; when it’s time get busy.
This month there is an emphasis on driving safely to work. Whether your company operates a fleet of vehicles, oversees a travelling sales force, or simply has employees that commute daily, integrating key elements of driving safely into your safety culture can help.
The Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) reports that “Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of occupational fatalities in the U.S”. In most cases for office workers, driving is probably the riskiest thing they will do all day.
The most common causes of traffic accidents are driving while distracted, fatigue, and impairment. It’s important to remember that these causes are not just a problem for your employee, they are hazards presented by all the drivers on the road with them.
A large percentage of serious injuries and fatalities in automobile are a result of the driver’s failure to wear their seat belt. A recent survey reported that the main excuses drivers sited for not wearing their seatbelts were:
It takes too much time
I’m not going very far
I’ll be driving at low speed
In response to these, the American Automobile Association (AAA) notes that the majority of fatal crashes occur within 25 miles of home and at speeds of less than 40 mph. A frontal collision at 30 mph, where your vehicle hits an object and stops, People and objects inside the vehicle continue to move forward until they hit the windshield, steering column, or dashboard. This has the the same effect as falling from the top of a three-story building.
Employers should support driving safely to work, and encourage employees to follow a few simple rules:
Buckle up: their seat belt may be the most important PPE they have
Get plenty of rest
Leave earlier and give yourself more time
Have their eyes tested regularly: 90% of a driver’s reaction time is dependent on visual cues
Don’t use cell phones or other mobile devices while driving
An effective driving safety program will not only minimize risk and the resulting costs of crashes, it can protect what makes your organization succeed, its people.
Keep your employees safe; don’t let their commute kill them, or your business.