Category: Safety Tips

Common Sense Workplace Safety

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Safety Services Company - Workplace Safety

Workplace Safety

Welcome to Safe Friday, this week we’re going to cover workplace safety. Freedom from danger is a wonderful concept, but to make that goal a reality requires considerable planning, training, commitment, management skills, and above all THINKING about workplace safety. Thinking through and applying safety and health programs is an effective method of identifying and correcting workplace safety and health hazards.

Thinking About Workplace Safety

When thinking about safety you should consider:

  • Are you using the appropriate personal protective equipment for the job?
  • Have the potential hazards in the workplace been identified?
  • Is there a plan in place on how to avoid injury, and are there first aid procedures in case of injury
  • Are you educated, trained and experienced to perform your job safely?
  • Are others trained and experienced to handle or use chemicals or other harmful substances in a safe manner?
  • Is there an emergency action plan in place, and is everyone familiar with proper emergency procedures?
  • Make sure you know the regulations that apply to your work environment and how to comply with them

Workplace Safety & Health Plans

Should cover the following areas:

  • Workplace safety policies and procedures
  • Understanding hazards and how to recognize and control them
  • Specific training required for the job
  • Emergency Action plan in case of an emergency
  • Protective measures to prevent or minimize exposure to hazards
  • A fall protection program (if appropriate)
  • Accident and incident investigation plan
  • A hazard communication program for any materials present
  • Personal protective equipment training
  • A lockout/tagout program
  • Equipment and power tool guarding policy
  • Fire prevention techniques and procedure
  • Personal protective equipment requirements and training
  • Workplace violence and sexual harassment

Regarding Equipment & Machinery

  • Are only qualified employees allowed to operate equipment and machinery?
  • Is the use of any machine, tool, material, or equipment that’s damaged or defective prohibited?
  • Are machines, tools, material, or equipment that’s identified as unsafe by locking and tagging, or physically removed from the jobsite?
  • Are only authorized, competent employees permitted to perform repairs?

Hazard Evaluations

Successful workplace safety programs must provide frequent and regular inspections of the materials, operating procedures, PPE, job-site conditions, emergency procedures, safe work practices, hazard communication program (including SDS sheets), and equipment.

To reduce job-related fatalities, injuries, and illnesses, take a proactive approach to safety, and think about how to work safely. Having an effective workplace safety and health program will ensure you’re OSHA compliant and show your commitment to safety.

Workplace Safety Training & Documentation

Federal law requires that you receive training in the safe methods of doing your job. You need to know about workplace the hazards that are present, how to recognize them and how to control your exposure. Being aware of potential hazards, as well as knowing how to control them, is critical to maintaining a safe and healthful work environment and preventing injuries. The best way to gain this knowledge is through education and training.

Education and Training

  • Education teaches us why safe practices and procedures are important; education affects attitudes about safety, and attitudes affect behavior
  • Training, on the other hand, provides the skills necessary for working safely. You need to know; the safety and health rules, how to identify any worksite hazards, safe work procedures and what to do in an emergency. New employee orientations, periodic safety and health training, and emergency drills will build this knowledge
  • Our written safety training program enforces the educational aspects of training and demonstrates our commitment to safety
  • Written training material will also help to better comprehend and retain training concepts

Benefits of Training

  • Makes you aware of job hazards
  • Teaches you to perform jobs safely
  • Promotes two-way communication
  • Encourages safety suggestions
  • Creates interest in the safety program
  • Fulfills OSHA requirements

Here are four examples that demonstrate you have been educated and trained about the importance of workplace safety and health:

  • You know what workplace hazards could harm you
  • You know how to control or eliminate your exposure to workplace hazards
  • You know and understand OSHA regulations pertinent to the job you are doing
  • You, your supervisors, and your managers understand all safety and health responsibilities

The Benefits of Documentation

Experienced workers know that putting things in writing has benefits far more valuable than just avoiding an OSHA citation. Putting things in writing has value in legal proceedings, in employment matters, in dealings with other government agencies, and recording the progress toward achieving a safe, healthful workplace.

The Quality of Training

May become an issue in legal cases where a defense of unpreventable employee misconduct is raised. Under case law, the company may successfully defend themselves against an otherwise valid citation, by showing that all feasible steps were taken to avoid the occurrence of the hazard, and that actions of the employee involved in the violation, “were a departure from a uniformly and effectively enforced work rule that the employee had been trained on. Documenting workplace safety training (putting it in writing) may be the company’s only proof of compliance with OSHA requirements, or that you were trained in the area in contention.

Supervisors and managers also need education and training to help them in their leadership roles, and to enhance their skills in identifying and controlling hazards.

Taking Workplace Safety Seriously

Every year thousands of workers are hurt or killed because of accidents. For the most part these accidents were caused by unsafe acts, whether intentional or done without thinking. Each of these workers can provide valuable insight and information on the safety training that’s needed to avoid future accidents. Today we’ll continue to discuss how to get everyone thinking and acting safely.

The Facts

  • The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that around 85% of workplace injuries are avoidable
  • Many accidents are caused by equipment that wasn’t been properly maintained or inspected before use
  • Safety and health training should be provided before problems or accidents occur
  • Problems that can be addressed effectively by training include:
  • Those that come from a lack of knowledge of a work process
  • Unfamiliarity with equipment
  • Unsafe practices
  • Additional training or retraining should occur when:
  • Employees are assigned new job responsibilities
  • New equipment is introduced to the workplace
  • There are additions of hazardous chemicals
  • Hazardous conditions on the job change
  • Any near-miss incidents or accidents occur on the job

Safety is an Attitude

Most accidents happen because of an improper attitude. Since our attitudes determine our actions, everyone needs to have the proper attitude towards safety. No one wants to get hurt, or see their co-worker injured, so it makes sense to work with a positive attitude toward safety. A positive attitude toward safety is contagious; however, equally contagious is a negative attitude. Joking about safety or disregarding safety rules is not only against company policy, it also shows a lack of regard for you and your fellow co-workers health.

  • Remember that accidents can cause pain, significant loss of income, disability and even death
  • Effective working is a team effort, we are all responsible for the safety of each other and making a safer work area
  • Always monitor your surroundings, pay attention to your co-workers and set a positive example

Handling Equipment & Tools

Any tool or piece of equipment can become defective. A defective tool or piece of equipment can result in unsafe work practices. It’s important to note that time and use will eventually render every tool and all equipment defective; therefore, performing maintenance and inspection is essential for the safekeeping and long life of the tool and equipment. A defect free tool or piece of equipment means a safer workplace.

Tips for Safe Tool Handling

  • Always put tools or equipment away in their proper place to avoid slip, trip and fall hazards
  • Don’t pull electrical cords unplugged from a distance or carry tools/equipment by the cord as that can cause damage
  • Don’t remove any safety guards or make unapproved modification to tools and equipment
  • Always wear proper PPE when working
  • Never operate tools or equipment without proper training

Remember to ask if you don’t know or are unsure of the right and safe way to do your job. If a co-worker is trying to help you, it’s because they care about your safety and health. Attitudes are very contagious, so if you are consciously thinking about safety, there’s a good chance that your co-worker will do the same.

Common-Sense Workplace Safety

Introduction: Safety is often nothing more than common sense. It’s generally accepted that at least 85% of all accidents are preventable. Taking responsibility for your work habits and recognizing that an accident is most likely preventable is the first step to a safer workplace.

Common-Sense Guidelines for Workplace Safety

  • Be alert. most accidents occur because you or someone around you isn’t “paying attention” to what they’re doing
  • Watch out for the other guy, pay attention to what your co-workers are doing around you. Make sure that people aren’t acting irresponsibly or putting you or themselves in a potentially dangerous situation
  • Dress for safety. Don’t wear loose fitting clothes. Tie back or cover long hair. Make sure your shoes are tied
  • Wear all appropriate PPE. Never take short cuts and always take the time to wear your safety glasses, hard hats, work boots, safety gloves and fall protection, no matter how inconvenient it may seem at the time
  • Read and follow the manufacturer’s label directions or SDS on safe use, handling, and storage of chemicals, pesticides, or cleaning supplies
  • Don’t operate any equipment that you haven’t been trained on
  • Constantly inspect your work area for hazards
  • Use good housekeeping practices, keep your area clean and hazard free
  • Keep aisle-ways, walkways and stairways clear, and never obstruct exits. Watch for and correct, any trip hazards, spills or leaks to prevent slips and falls
  • Always use proper lifting techniques. Don’t attempt to lift or move objects that are too heavy to safely lift alone or without the aid of equipment
  • Take safety seriously. Get involved with your safety program. Identify workplace hazards to your supervisor and provide feedback and input during the safety meetings
  • Inspect all your tools and equipment for defects such as missing or inoperable machine guards. Don’t operate unsafe tools or equipment
  • Clean up your work at the end of the day or as needed. Lock up equipment and secure your work area. Label and guard all hazards
  • Brush up on your first aid skills and frequently inspect the supplies in your first aid kit
  • Ask questions. If you’re not sure how to do something, or simply need assistance, ask questions
  • Ask for help. Never be afraid to ask your supervisor or fellow employees for assistance

“If I’m the one who has an accident, I’m the one who’s going to suffer the pain and the potential loss of income.”

Common sense safety is often simply thinking before doing. What could happen if I do it this way? Is the way I’m planning to do this safe? Following common sense safety guidelines and working responsibly is everyone’s job.

We have complete OSHA compliant safety solutions for all your needs. Call (877) 640-6571 today to speak with one of our highly skilled safety experts.

Please join us next Friday for more safety and compliance tips!

4 Practical Avetta FAQs for Suppliers

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Avetta Contractor Management

Avetta & Contractor Management

Welcome to Safe Friday, this week we’re going to cover the fundamentals of working with Avetta® for Contractor Management from a Suppliers perspective. If you’re unfamiliar with Avetta®, they’re an easy-to-use, web-based Supplier/Contractor Management platform. Essentially, they compile supplier information into real-time globally accessible vendor databases. If you’re here, then a hiring customer might be requiring you to use them. So, don’t get left behind, today we’ll be filling in the gaps for you.

Avetta provides 4 main services:

1. Supplier Prequalification

What is DocuGUARD?

Document Management: Avetta® collects, verifies, and provides your supplier safety and sustainability information to their clients. This includes regulatory citations, health and safety statistics, and global/regional requirements. Avetta® then houses all of your information in their system so that clients can shop for the criteria that they want, see suppliers that meet their qualifications, and view potential risks. That’s why is so important to always stay up to date with your Avetta® compliance, so that you can be at the top of the list in your industry.

2. Supplier Auditing

AuditGUARD.

Supplier Audits: Avetta® provides auditing services to assess whether or not a supplier like you meets requirements for sustainability, safety manuals, and implementation procedures. They can even perform field audits and provide their feedback to their clients during their decision-making process when choosing who to work with. This allows their clients to gain visibility into how suppliers implement documented policies and procedures, and in turn, can provide your business with professional feedback on how to improve their business practices, and land more – or maintain existing - contracts.

3. Supplier Insurance Verification

What is InsureGUARD?

Insurance Management: Avetta® collects, verifies, and provides your supplier insurance policy information – such as workers comp, general liability, automotive, transport, and more – to their clients so that they can make an informed hiring decision. When you submit Certificates of Insurance as proof that you have the proper types and levels of coverage for your industry, Avetta’s insurance professions review and confirm that your documentation is accurate and sufficient.

4. Supplier Qualifications & Training

What is EmployeeGUARD?

Supplier Employee Qualification & Training: Avetta’s clients know that they are choosing the best contractors and suppliers for their needs when using Avetta® services. But what about the individuals that come to work sites? Are they qualified and properly trained to do their work safely? Avetta® works with suppliers and contractors to ensure that any additional specific requirements that a client wants to request, are met. This can include identifying, monitoring, and addressing license and certification gaps, individual employee audits and certifications, reviewing your internal training policies and procedures, and more.

Need help with Avetta® Safety Program Requirements? Safety Services Company can help – it’s what we do.

What You Need

Have you been asked to get prequalified with Avetta, maybe you aren’t sure where to start? Safety Services Company can help. We specialize in providing turnkey pre-qualification and compliance services for companies like Avetta®. Let us be your safety expert to help you navigate complex third-party auditor requirements. We are the best in the business, and we guarantee your satisfaction.

Why you need it

Avetta® certification and auditing is required by most of your hiring customers. Don’t get left behind. They trust Avetta®, so Avetta® needs to trust you. Safety Services Company can help make sure you are qualified to work for all the hiring customers in your industry that are looking for contractors just like you.

Problem

Third-party organizations, such as Avetta®, verify contractors as compliant and safe prior to working. The verification process is involved and complex and includes detailed online account set-up and written manual requirements. To make matters more complex, these organizations also make changes to their requirements frequently, meaning you have to scramble to stay certified.

Our Solution

Safety Services Company handles these time-consuming and challenging takes for you – allowing you to continue to focus on your business. We offer a complete maintenance program, and management of your account, 24/7 to make sure you are always compliant and up to date.

How Do I Choose A Safety Consultant?

If you do a quick google search, you’ll find numerous companies offering downloadable safety programs and monitoring systems to assist you. But how do you know if these companies are qualified to help you with both Avetta® and OSHA safety requirements? And how do you choose one among the many choices?

Long-Term Value

Don’t: Avoid consultants who only provide cookie-cutter, downloadable safety programs and on real safety advise. Although a cheap, downloadable program may solve your compliance problems in the short run, it won’t be enough for long.
Do: A professional safety consultant like Safety Services Company will provide customized safety plans that fit your company’s operations and will advise you on implementation so that the ultimate goal of a clean safety record for your company is achieved. If you are audited, the cheap downloadable plan that was never implemented will not be sufficient to keep your company in compliance, so it’s best to do it right the first time.

Qualified Support

Don’t: Make sure you understand the scope of the services to be provided. There are many levels of consulting available in the market place. Some companies just provide data maintenance and document processing services, which means that they simply take care of drafting downloadable safety programs and handing it back to you.
Do: Safety Services Company will offer turn-key, full service safety management services for your company. Make sure you understand what you are getting when you sign on with your consultant, and that they are qualified to provide the level of support your company needs.

References & Reputation

Don’t: You want to make sure your business is in good hands, right? Don’t accept someone’s solutions at face-value. Make sure you investigate their references and reputation, so that your reputation isn’t tarnished by someone else’s.
Do: Check your potential consultant’s references and reputation. Referrals from your industry peers are a great source of names of potential consultants, as well as local safety organizations, such as your local chapter of the American Association of Safety Engineers. If you are unsure, don’t hesitate to ask for client names and references at Safety Services Company we have more than +5000 happy clients, and we will gladly share one of their stories. Your Avetta® compliance grade directly impacts your company’s bottom line, so make sure the consultant you are hiring is competent.

Comprehensive Support

Don’t: Just because you need to meet immediate compliance standards doesn’t mean that’s all you should pay for. Why not get the best of both worlds by also choosing a safety partner who will lead your company through all of your safety and reputation needs, long-term?
Do: Remember that safety management is about more than just compliance. A good safety consultant can help you understand and comply with other requirements as well, improve your safety record, and maintain your company’s reputation on a quarterly and yearly basis, thus making you a safe company to do business with, and for, Owner Clients to hire.

Why do I need Avetta® Certification?

If you complete all necessary requirements to be a trusted Avetta® supplier, then the extensive list of companies that trust Avetta® to help them make hiring decisions will see your business on the Avetta® site as a trusted partner that they can work with. Trust us, while getting certified through Avetta® is a difficult process, it’s well worth it for your business if you want to land contracts with meaningful industry partners that can make a huge impact to your reputation and bottom line.

But wait, what is Avetta® exactly?

When a company hires a contractor or supplier, they are obligated to ensure they meet safety and sustainability requirements. This involves a lot of manual paperwork and strain on internal resources. This is where Avetta® comes in, to work with companies like yours, to ensure that those standards are being met. This – in turn – places a lot of strain on resources within your company to provide proof and documentation of safety and sustainability compliance. This is where Safety Services Company comes in, per the above.

Okay, so what is Safety Services Company exactly?

Safety Services Company is North America’s leading provider of safety and compliance training products and services. Custom solutions — such as safety manuals and training kits, online training portals, safety meeting subscriptions, posters, and contractor pre-qualification compliance services — that enhance the safety of our customers’ workplaces and well-being of their employees are the cornerstone of our organization. Through diligent research, in-depth customer touchpoints, and dedication of the company’s team, our goal is to deliver our customers products and services that exceed their safety and compliance needs, expectations, and goals.

Safety Services Company offers programs and services that can help meet the requirements of Avetta®/PICS®. Safety Services Company is an independently-owned company, with no agenda other than to help you get approved by Third-Party Prequalification Providers such as ISNetworld®, PEC® Premier, Avetta®/ PICS®, CanQual, ComplyWorks, and others. Finally, Safety Services Company is in no way endorsed, sponsored, or approved by, or otherwise affiliated with these companies.

How exactly does Safety Services help?

•We complete all PDF questionnaires for you

•We'll build and upload all required safety manuals for Avetta®

•We provide fast submission with Avetta®, typically in 72 hours or less

•We'll offer worry-free Avetta® annual maintenance plans

•We monitor your Avetta®; account to ensure compliance

•We'll deliver both print and digital documents for your convenience

•We work in accordance with the requirements of the major pipeline transmission lines throughout the United States, Canada, and Australia. We have dissected the Occupational Health and Safety legislation for each Province and Territory to determine regulatory requirements for all contractors

•We'll write, build, and create your entire manual as mandated by major gas, oil, and petroleum owner-clients

•We handle your program’s completion and submission of all uploads. The time-consuming hassles of submitting each individual chapter is taken out of your hands

•We'll offer a complete maintenance program and management of your account

I’m not sure how much of your help I need, do I have options?

Yes! We have options for:

Companies who want a total solution and submission within 72 hours

•We will complete HSE compliance, account set up, questionnaire, manuals, training documentation, and so much more.

Companies who handle their own safety programs but need help

•We handle standard and custom HSE manual chapters written based on your specific requirements and upload them to your account.

Companies who have already worked with Avetta® but need help with ongoing maintenance

•We provide maintenance updates to your HSE manual and account, based on regularly-released requirements and standards changes.

I’m in! Help me Safety Services Company. What’s next?

➫In order for you to meet all compliance qualifications yourself, you would need to hire a well-qualified full-time expert, which increases overhead. Or, you could take advantage of Safety Services Company’s Compliance Service Specialists, who are trained to maintain your Avetta® account for you 24/7, saving you time, money, and resources to help you be safe and save money. Call us at (877) 788-0830 for a FREE quote today to get started, or visit us here to learn more. We promise, in the time it would take you to recruit, hire, and train a full-time employee to take care of your compliance needs, we will have you in tip-top shape and ready to hit the ground running.

Please join us next Friday for more safety and compliance tips!

Burn Awareness Week: Fire Cleanup Safety

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fire cleanup safety

Fire Cleanup Safety

Burn awareness is critical even after fires have been put out, as workers still face many serious hazards during cleanup. It’s imperative for workers to know and utilize proven safety precautions. Today, we’ll cover some key points to follow for fire cleanup safety.

Confined Spaces

In a confined area you may be exposed to toxic gases, a lack of oxygen, or even explosive conditions. Without the proper knowledge, these areas can quickly become deathtraps, since many toxic gases and vapors can’t be seen or smelled.

Under these conditions, never trust your senses to determine whether or not an area is safe. Keep your wits about you and seek trained help.

Tip: Never enter a confined space without proper training, even under rescue conditions. Always contact your local fire department if you need to enter a confined space and don’t have the proper tools and training.

Fatigue

As working adults, fatigue is typically a daily struggle, but workers exposed to harsh conditions while fatigued are at a greater risk for injury, stress-caused illnesses, and disease. Stress, long hours and fatigue are often combined with emotional and physical exhaustion. Know your limits, stepping back is sometimes the smartest decision.

How to Reduce Injuries and Illnesses?
• Prioritize the work
• Take breaks
• Ask for help locally

Respiratory Dangers

During cleanup, you may be exposed to ash and breakdown products from burned material, which can irritate airways and affect breathing. Always be sure to wear a dust mask or respirator.

Additional Respiratory Considerations
• Breathing organic dust and bacteria may cause lung disease
• Use suitable engineering controls to exhaust and replenish fresh air while working indoors
• Only use HEPA vacuums when cleaning dust, as household vacuums can push dust back into the air
• When needed, use well-fitted, NIOSH-certified air-purifying respirators, such as an N-95 or better

PPE

During fire cleanup, ensure you have access to these PPE items:
• Hardhats
• Safety goggles
• Heavy gloves
• Earplugs
• Steel-toe boots
• Shin guards

First Aid

First aid is extremely important, as workers may be exposed to burned material and smoke. If anyone is injured, immediately call a doctor or emergency services to determine the right type of treatment. Next, be sure to thoroughly clean all open wounds and cuts with soap and clean water. With the exception of minor scratches, cuts may require treatment to prevent tetanus.

Finally, cleanup crews should be provided with periodic refresher training to ensure their skills stay up-to-date. Be sure to use these principles for safe cleanup operations after a fire. Please join us next week for more safety tips!

We have complete OSHA compliant safety solutions for all your needs. Call (877) 754-9749 today to speak with one of our highly skilled safety experts.

IMPROVING INDOOR AIR QUALITY

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If you haven’t guessed by the name, indoor air quality (IAQ) refers to the quality of air in an enclosed, non-industrial space. IAQ isn’t just about comfort; it’s a matter of health. Sources can be biological (such as mold developing in the ventilation system), chemical (gases and vapors from products used in the workplace), or particles (any contaminant dispersed into the air by way of a work process). Common symptoms of poor IAQ include eye, nose, throat, and lung irritation, difficulty focusing, headache, and fatigue, all of which can lead to sick days, lost time, and reduced productivity.

If you’re an employer dealing with poor IAQ, then what you want is solutions, so let’s get to the meat of it:

The approach to managing poor IAQ is really the same as any other workplace hazard solution in that it comes down to the hierarchy of controls.

Elimination/Engineering Controls: Always considered the most ideal solution, elimination is exactly what it sounds like: wiping the hazard out of existence altogether. If you can feasibly get rid of the item or process causing the contaminant, substitute it with a non- (or less-) toxic alternative, or use it in a manner which prevents it from coming into contact with workers, do it. If this is not feasible, then you’ll want to install workplace features that eliminate the hazard or minimize it to permissible levels, such as local exhaust systems, dilution ventilation, or air cleaning and filtration.

Administrative Controls: Sometimes, engineering controls are too costly, or not realistic in a given workplace. If this is the case, the next best option is to control the air contaminant hazard administratively. To put it simply, this means changing how the hazard is approached on a worker level and comes down to proper scheduling, thorough training, and good housekeeping.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): The least desirable option (in that it should be a last resort) is PPE. Generally speaking, PPE should be a supplement to safety controls, and not the only line of defense. However, when all else fails, you may need to fall back on respirators and other protective gear.

Remember that however you choose to combine hazard control methods, it is your responsibility to ensure workers are not exposed to air contaminants above permissible exposure levels.

PREVENTING REPETITIVE STRESS INJURIES

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Repetitive strain injuries (RSI) are those which affect nerves, joints, tendons, tendon sheathes, and muscles. They are often attributed to chronic pain in the forearms, wrists, hands, elbows, neck, shoulders, and lower limbs. The term RSI is rather broad because the injuries included occur due to a variety of activities, stressors, and body parts, but in general it refers to an injury manifesting as a result of force, excessive strain, rapid movements, continuous overloading, and poor ergonomics.

Estimates suggest that repetitive motion injuries cost United States businesses over $20 billion just in workers’ compensation alone. Factor in the costs of employee replacement, productivity loss, and other related expenses, and we’re talking upwards of another $100 billion.

Business costs aside, RSIs are a heavy burden to the individual as well. RSIs are painful, costly to treat, and are often times permanent. Permanent injuries put a damper on an individual’s ability to perform the jobs in which they have been trained, meaning that there may be the additional stressor of finding work in a new field.

The good news is that with the right work practices and controls, you can significantly reduce workplace hazards that contribute to RSIs.

Workstations

Unfortunately, many workplaces make the mistake of designing employee workstations in a manner that accommodates a broad spectrum of workers. Although such an approach may appear to be a matter of efficiency, the question is, how exactly does this help a specific individual? A workstation that is ergonomically appropriate for one employee may not be so for the next. It is important that the workstation fits the employee, not the other way around.

There are dozens of ways a workstation can be designed to reduce the risks of RSIs, but the basic idea is to set it up in such a way that the need for movement is limited. For example, frequently-used desk equipment should be within easy reach, not pushed back to a location on the desk that requires an employee to stretch for it. Or, for a worker operating a piece of machinery – are the controls located in a position that requires the worker to bend down every time they need to input a command? If so, how can you alter the workstation or equipment design to accommodate the worker?

Work Practices

Following safe work practices is the primary key to employee safety. Preventing RSIs is just one of many safety benefits of careful, health-minded behaviors. Some examples are:

  • Operate equipment and tools according to manufacturer instructions. When a tool can be replaced with one with ergonomically-beneficial properties, do so. For example, for work tasks where installing screws and nails is involved, pneumatic hand tools or electric screwdrivers may be desirable over manual tools that require repetitive twisting or bending at the wrist.
  • Follow proper lifting techniques. Lift heavy objects slowly and smoothly, as jerky movements can cause muscle injuries. Face the object – do not twist your body, especially during the actual lifting action. Keep the object close to your body with your feet apart and facing forward, lifting with your legs and not your back. Always consider the weight of the load before you attempt to lift it; ask for help or lift the load mechanically if you believe its weight is beyond your capacity.
  • Take advantage of ergonomic tools at your disposal, such as anti-fatigue mats or adjustable chairs.
  • For desk jobs, ensure that your work station is adjusted to your needs. Set your chair to keep your back straight with your spine relaxed at its natural curve. The top of your computer monitor should be at eye level in order to prevent you from having to bend your neck. Keep all of your equipment within arm’s reach. Make sure that you face your work tasks directly by turning your chair rather than twisting at the waist. When typing, your elbows should be at your sides, your feet flat on the floor and facing forward, and your wrists straight.
  • It is recommended that you switch to tasks that use an entirely different muscle group on the hour. This will retain the momentum of work efficiency while allowing your muscles the opportunity to recover. If possible, employers should cross train and implement scheduled job rotations.

Personal Health

The risks of many RSIs become less prevalent to those who take care of themselves physically. Getting a sufficient amount of rest, maintaining a healthy diet, and getting enough exercise outside of work are all things that will contribute greatly to reducing RMI hazards.

Studies have shown that taking small hourly breaks throughout the workday offers more reparative benefits than one long break. It is important that you don’t skip breaks – take advantage of opportunities to stand, walk, stretch your muscles, close your eyes, or, depending on the severity of repetition involved in your work, stop moving altogether and rest.

As a final note, training and inspection where RSIs are concerned must be thorough and ongoing. A written RSI safety policy is a great way to start. Employees should be well enough aware of their job requirements and equipment to recognize an RSI hazard from a mile away. Employers need to conduct regular worksite inspections to:

  1. Ensure that workers are following safe work practices. Correct unsafe behaviors right away, encouraging employee involvement in discussing more effective behaviors.
  2. Identify hazards and determine methods by which they can be controlled or eliminated.

13 WAYS TO IMPROVE MENTAL HEALTH IN THE WORKPLACE

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Creating a mentally-tranquil workplace atmosphere has incredibly beneficial returns across the board. Employees who are mentally healthy as a result of employer efforts are far more likely to be productive, have higher morale, and make significant contributions to company growth and profitability. Simon Fraser University in Canada used extensive research and data review to identify 13 psychosocial risk (PSR) factors which impact employee mental health:

1. Psychological Support

Employers who cultivate at atmosphere of support among staff regarding psychological and mental health concerns can expect to see many overall benefits in the workplace. When there is perceivable, substantial psychological support at work, affected employees are more likely to actively seek and receive the help they need to recover. This leads to increased loyalty (commitment and attachment to their job), satisfaction, mood and demeanor, engagement in optional work activities, and quality of performance.

2. Organizational Culture

This refers to a work environment built upon trust, honesty, and fairness. Such an environment is attractive to potential hires, and creates a sense of loyalty for existing employees. Without it, employees are less likely to observe and commit to safety and health policies, and may avoid reporting hazardous conditions out of fear of retaliation or unfair treatment.

3. Clear Leadership and Expectations

Effective leadership often means giving employees clear, concise directives – they know what is expected of them, how they contribute to the business, and what changes are on the horizon. It also includes leadership showing a commitment to their own personal psychological health. Benefits of this factor include higher employee morale and trust, and decreased frustration and conflict.

4. Civility and Respect

To observe decreased emotional exhaustion, fewer health problems, and less conflict and job withdrawal, it’s important to foster a work environment in which employees are respectful to each other, clients, customers, and the public. The Civility and Respect factor observes the need for esteem, care, consideration, and the acknowledgement of dignity between all individuals.

5. Psychological Competencies and Requirements

This factor refers to how well an employee’s interpersonal and emotional competencies match with a particular position. Employees are more than money-makers; they are human individuals with their own unique psychological makeups which make them strong in some arenas, and stressed in another. Employees should be fitted to positions and responsibilities that reflect their strengths, as making unreasonable demands outside of their individual capacities can hurt both the employee and the business.

6. Growth and Development

An employer committed to workplace mental health will take part in its employees’ career growth. This is done through encouragement and support where the development of an employee’s skillset is concerned. Without the challenge of improvement, employees will become bored and complacent, causing their well-being and performance to suffer.

7. Recognition and Reward

It’s no surprise that recognition and reward can be major contributing factors to employee performance when provided in a fair and timely manner. Everyone appreciates having their efforts recognized and compensated fairly. Recognition leads to higher self-esteem and a motivation to go above and beyond the minimum requirements. Employees who are not appreciated by their leaders quickly lose confidence and trust, as they may feel there is little reason to excel if it’s perceived that no one cares.

8. Involvement and Influence

Employees who feel as though their suggestions and input are meaningful and taken seriously may be more engaged with higher morale and organizational pride. If a company fails to find ways to involve its employees in measurable ways, it may find a workforce littered with indifference, burnout, and cynicism.

9. Workload Management

Another surefire way to see employees throw their hands up in defeat is to ask for more than what is reasonable. A successful company knows the importance of delivering realistic goals – those which are achievable within the time frame allotted. Surprise deadlines are to be expected, but for the most part, employees should be able to attain the satisfaction that comes from clocking out on time having effectively met their daily goals.

10. Engagement

Employee engagement refers to being physically, emotionally, and/or cognitively engaged in one’s career. A profitable workforce has employees who make strong connections to the work they’re doing, whether it’s a matter of satisfying physical exertion, emotional commitment, or strong focus. These types of employees lead to customer satisfaction, higher morale, enhanced motivation, and proven increases to the bottom line.

11. Balance

Very rarely is an individual defined exclusively by their careers. Those on your payroll leave work to be with their families, foster friendships, and pursue personal hobbies. When work demands interfere with other aspects of an employee’s life, those aspects begin to suffer, and the resulting emotional turmoil can spill over into the workplace. That’s why it’s important to recognize the value of a work-life balance, and allow for it through compassion and flexibility.

12. Psychological Protection

When an employee knows their employer is committed to protecting their psychological health, it means know they can act in good faith without fear. If an employee fears retaliation as a result of requesting feedback, reporting problems, asking questions, or offering ideas, they will view their workplace as hostile and volatile. This will lead to stress-related illness, regulatory risks, and negligence.

13. Protection of Physical Safety

All businesses are required by law to provide a safe and healthful workplace. This means making a concerted effort to recognize and eliminate known or potential safety and health hazards, and equipping employees with the tools and skills they need to be safe. Such a commitment not only eliminates the fear of injury felt by undertrained and unprotected workers, but critically reduces the astronomical costs associated with workplace injuries and incidents.

WINTER DRIVING SAFETY

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Winter is in full swing, and in many areas of the country, the cold weather is having an adverse effect on driving conditions. The United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration states that annually, an average of 22 percent of vehicle accidents are related to the weather. This amounts to almost 1.3 million accidents each year.

Snow, ice, and the impacts low temperatures can have on a vehicle make winter driving especially hazardous. Even regions typically associated with warm weather are not immune to the occasional, out-of-the-ordinary freeze. Whether you drive for work, to work, or just on errands, following these tips can save your life.

Prepare Your Vehicle

Much of safety is a matter of being proactive. While regular vehicle maintenance is crucial year round, it’s especially prudent during the winter when roads are icy. System and/or component failures increase safety risks dramatically. Long-haul drivers need to take special care inspecting their vehicles before beginning a trip; becoming stranded in the middle of nowhere in below-freezing temperatures is incredibly dangerous.

Remove all snow and ice from essential areas of your car. Clean the headlights, windows, mirrors, wheel wells, and forward and rear sensors. Where snow is concerned, clear off the hood and the top of the vehicle as well. Snow from your hood can blow up over your windshield and obstruct vision, and snow from the top of your car can blow back and do the same to drivers behind you.

Check your tires. It’s a good idea to have a spare set of winter tires on hand. Inspect the tread, and be sure the tires are inflated properly. Fluctuations in temperature can cause tires to expand and contract, ultimately leading to a loss of air pressure. Your state may have laws in place regarding the use of tire chains, including permitted timeframes and recommendations. A good set of winter-specific tires can be just as (if not more) effective as chains, but having a set of chains in the trunk can help with traction if you get stuck in the snow.

Inspect systems and fluid levels. Check the lights, exhaust system, heat and defrosting systems, brakes, and antifreeze. It’s a good idea to use a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water to prevent freezing. Be sure your oil changes are on schedule – it can’t hurt to get it changed early if winter sets in before the next one is scheduled. Test your battery, and replace it if it’s more than 3 years old. Replace your windshield wipers if necessary; between snow and road salt, your windshield may get dirty several times in one short trip. The fuller you keep your gas tank, the better to prevent frozen gas lines in low temperatures.

Warming Your Car: If you don’t have a modern, fuel-injected car and need to idle it for a short time before driving it in the cold, do not do it in an enclosed space such as a garage. Carbon monoxide can build up quickly and lead to poisoning. In fact, you should avoid leaving your car running in any attached garage, even if the door is open, as the carbon monoxide can still find its way into your home.

Prepare Yourself

Check the weather! So much hassle can be prevented by simply knowing what to expect ahead of a time. Always keep an eye on the weather forecast the night before, and plan accordingly.

Consider alternatives. In the case of extreme weather conditions, such as incredibly low temperatures and snow storms, you might be better off avoiding driving altogether. If it’s just a commute to work or an errand, taking advantage of public transit or other rideshare services which minimize the number of drivers on the road can be a safer bet.

Always be ready for an emergency. Even if your vehicle is in top condition, there is always the possibility of a breakdown. You can be the safest driver around, and another driver’s unsafe habits can still put you at risk of a collision. Being stranded in cold weather can go from annoying to life-threatening very quickly so being prepared is non-negotiable. Always keep your vehicle stocked with jumper cables (portable jump starters are preferable, if possible), a snow brush and ice scraper, flares or emergency lights, sand or kitty litter, blankets, a flashlight, a first aid kit, and a cell phone. If you’re expecting a long trip through rural areas where help may take a long time to arrive, include food and water.

If you do break down, especially in extremely low temperatures, it’s best to stay in your car while you wait for assistance. You can run the car heater for 10 minutes per hour, but check the exhaust pipe to ensure it’s free of snow or other obstructions to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Even during the 10 minutes of heating, you should crack your window to prevent buildup.

Drive with Safety in Mind

  • Keep in mind that speed limits are meant for ideal driving conditions, which do not include snow and ice. Adjust your speed and following distance for current conditions and visibility.
  • When roads are slippery, it may take more time and distance to come to a stop. Brake earlier than you normally would. This goes double for larger vehicles, which are heavier and require a greater stopping distance than smaller cars. Additionally, be wary of becoming overconfident in a 4×4’s capabilities, as they still require sufficient time and distance to come to a safe stop.
  • Watch out for bridges! Because they are open underneath, they’re quicker to freeze. Bridges are often the first areas of roadway to become covered by ice or black ice (ice which does not appear shiny and is essentially camouflaged by the black asphalt).
  • In snow and below-freezing temperatures, avoid using cruise control. The road may look clear, but can become slippery unexpectedly.
  • If your car slides, don’t slam on the brakes. This can cause you to quickly lose control. Instead, let go of the brakes and turn your wheel in the opposite direction in which your front end is moving. Do not panic or overreact, which will make the spin worse.
  • When driving up a snowy hill, get some inertia going ahead of a time – enough to help you ride to the top while maintaining the same speed. Pressing the gas hard while going uphill can cause your tires to spin wildly and get stuck in the snow. If it’s slippery, a situation like this might lead to sliding back down the hill and putting yourself and others at risk.

TAKE THE DANGER OUT OF ABRASIVE BLASTING

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Abrasive blasting, often known as “sand blasting” due to the fact that silica sand is the most commonly-used abrasive material today, is a technique developed in 1904 to clean metal surfaces, apply a texture to concrete, or prepare a surface for the application of another material such as paint. Operations involve accelerating abrasive material particles at high velocity through a nozzle aimed at a target surface. The technique is a model of human ingenuity with applications across several industries, but unfortunately is not without its own set of safety hazards.

SILICOSIS

The primary risk associated with abrasive blasting is respiratory hazards, wherein dusts formed by pulverized abrasive material or broken materials from the target surface become airborne with the potential for inhalation. While a wide variety of abrasive materials are used for blasting, silica sand remains the most prominent and can lead to a dangerous fungal growth in the lungs called “silicosis” if inhaled. Symptoms of silicosis can arise years after inhalation, a potentially deadly condition waiting dormant until it’s too late. Intense exposure can cause symptoms within a year, although prolonged general exposure is more common and takes an average of 10-15 years to induce symptoms. Symptoms may include difficulty breathing, fever, cough, and bluish skin, and can eventually become cancerous if left untreated. People with silicosis are also at a high risk of developing tuberculosis.

NOISE EXPOSURE

Occupational noise exposure is another significant safety hazard connected to abrasive blasting operations. Loud machinery as well as sound reverberating from the surface of impacted materials can pose serious risks to hearing, with long-term or permanent hearing loss being a possibility. Noise exposure can be controlled with a workplace hearing conservation program where noise levels are monitored and protective equipment or engineering controls are implemented.

OTHER HAZARDS

Other abrasive blasting-related hazards can include slips, trips, and falls from accumulated dust particles (especially when a particularly slippery abrasive material is used, such as steel shot or glass), falls when working from heights, and fatigue. Workplaces where abrasive blasting operations occur should implement the appropriate protective systems and administrative controls to reduce or eliminate these hazards.

JOB HAZARD ANALYSIS

The most powerful tool at your disposal when combating safety hazards is a job hazard analysis. This analysis is performed before abrasive blasting operations begin, and is used to identify potential hazards in the work zone. By collecting a detailed account of these hazards, you can develop an effective strategy for controlling them. Your analysis will depend on your unique, specific workplace, but some things to look out for may include the abrasive material being used, the type of material being blasted, potential exposure to airborne contaminates for workers outside of and unrelated to the blasting operation, the integrity of equipment and ventilation systems, and clutter and fall hazards. The more thorough you are in your analysis, the more likely you are to identify a hazard which may have otherwise gone unnoticed. Afterwards, you can use your analysis results to select the most hazard-appropriate controls for your operation.

CONTROLS

There are many possible methods for controlling abrasive blasting-related hazards which will depend on your workplace and the results of your job hazard analysis, but a few to think about include using a less toxic abrasive material, barriers or curtain walls, exhaust ventilation systems, scheduling blasting operations during times when the fewest number of other employees are on site, and not performing operations in conditions of high winds.

Much of the hazard prevention involved with abrasive blasting is in the hands of the worker. Personal protective equipment, housekeeping, and proper hygiene take away much of the risks associated with airborne dust particles. When airborne contaminates exceed the permissible exposure limit (PEL), all workers in the abrasive blasting area, whether directly involved with the blasting or providing a support role such as cleanup, are required to wear an air-supplied breathing helmet. Blasters should also use leather or heavy canvas gloves with full forearm protection, aprons or coveralls, hearing protection, and safety shoes or boots.

HOUSEKEEPING

Workers should clean up as they go, attending to dust spills immediately using either wet methods or HEPA vacuuming in order to prevent settled dust from dispersing into the air. Equipment must be inspected before and after used, and maintained and stored properly. Workers should not bring contaminated clothing or equipment home; showering and handwashing stations should be available onsite to accommodate. Eating, drinking, or using tobacco with contaminated hands or clothing, or within the blasting area, must not be permitted.

WRITING A SUBSTANTIAL INCIDENT REPORT

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An incident report is one of the most valuable tools an employer can have in their commitment to a safe and healthful workplace. After managing the aftermath of an incident, it’s important to move forward in ways that ensure a similar incident doesn’t occur again in the future – to learn from mistakes, so to speak. A strong incident report will help you achieve this goal by detailing the events surrounding the incident, identifying a root cause, and leading to an effective course of corrective action.

The incident reporting process consists of four steps:

Step 1: Control the Scene

Before you can do anything, you need to make sure the scene of the incident is under control. If the scene remains hazardous, such as in the case of fire or chemical spill, those dangers need to be neutralized and workers evacuated as necessary. If any workers were injured during the incident, they must receive the appropriate first aid, plus medical attention or transportation to a medical facility if the injuries are severe. A supervisor should be notified as soon as possible if for some reason one wasn’t present during the incident.

After focusing on controlling imminent hazards and injured workers, it’s time to lock down the scene. Only authorized personnel should be allowed in the area. Do not move any items unless absolutely necessary for safety, as you will want to properly document the scene with photographs and drawings during the next step.

Step 2: Conduct an Investigation

Since the end goal of an incident report is a corrective action plan, you’ll want to know as much as possible about what led up to the incident. Without a clear idea of how the incident occurred, you won’t be able to determine what measures to implement in order to prevent it from happening again.  To obtain this information, an investigation is necessary. Scrutinize the incident scene carefully, taking pictures and sketching a layout that accurately depicts the area. Having this information documented may be beneficial beyond the report itself, should you find yourself subject to OSHA investigation.

There is a limit to how much information you can gather by evaluating the scene of the incident; the rest of what you need to know will come from those involved. Conduct interviews with workers present for the incident as soon as possible, while their memories are still fresh. Interviews should be performed with tact and care, especially if the incident was severe, as workers involved may be under a lot of emotional stress. Furthermore, it’s possible a worker will be on edge out of fear that the interview will lead to disciplinary action. Speak calmly, professionally, and reassure the worker that your only goal is to learn about what happened.

Between investigating the scene and interviewing workers, the information you want includes:

  • Date, time, and location of the incident
  • The names, positions, and immediate supervisors of those involved, and witnesses
  • Events surrounding the incident (before, during, and after)
  • Exactly what those involved were doing when the incident occurred
  • Details of property damage
  • Specifics regarding any injuries, including what part of the body was injured, what type of injury, and the severity of the injury, as well as what treatments were administered
  • Environmental conditions, such as weather (if outdoors), slippery surfaces, noise levels, etc.
  • Tasks performed, equipment and materials involved, and personal protective equipment used

Take care to document this information in your report as thoroughly as necessary to ensure that anyone reading it would be able to develop a clear mental picture of the incident based on what you’ve written. Generally speaking, because this is essentially a preventative tool, the more information provided the better.

Step 3: Analyze Information and Determine Root Causes

This is where you’ll find out exactly what your corrective action will address. If you’re only looking at the big picture, you’ll see a variety of contributing factors which led to the incident. These are important in terms of making the proper adjustments going forward, but what you really want is to know what caused the incident at the core. This is known as the “root cause.”

Let’s imagine a new employee was operating a powered industrial truck (PIT) when he lost control and crashed into a stack of pallets. Injuries were minimal, but there was a good amount of property damage and everyone involved was shaken. After a thorough investigation, it was determined that the PIT had faulty brakes. Now, to determine the root causes of the incident, you’ll want to ask a series of questions that look beyond the obvious. The obvious states that bad brakes led to a loss of control, but why were the brakes faulty? Is there a preventative maintenance schedule (and if one was followed, why wasn’t the PIT marked as out of service?)? The employee was new – had he received adequate training and certification prior to operating the PIT? Why wasn’t the PIT inspected before use?

The answers to these questions will provide you with your root causes, which lead to the final step:

Step 4: Develop a Corrective Course of Action

With your incident report fully fleshed out, the last step is to use the information you’ve acquired to determine and document precisely how you’ll prevent a similar incident from reoccurring. Revisiting the previous example, this would include implementing a written preventative maintenance schedule and holding maintenance personnel accountable for it. If the new employee had not received the training necessary to safely operate a PIT, then you’ll want to examine how training is administered and how supervisors can test for skill. Once you’ve implemented corrective actions, be sure to reexamine your report at a later date in the near future to ensure these actions were sufficient.

 

 

WORKPLACE WELLNESS IS KEY

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The last several decades have seen an increase in unhealthy lifestyle epidemics, such as poor nutrition, smoking, frequent alcohol consumption, and lack of exercise. As a result, chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease are more prevalent than ever, and are creating a significant burden on workplaces across the country. Many business are noticing that poor lifestyle choices are contributing to increases in health-related work expenses, reduced productivity, and more frequent days of missed work.

Although the impacts of health and wellness on the workplace are evident, many employers still resist the idea of implementing a workplace wellness program because most of the benefits are intangible or not immediately apparent, making them hard to measure where the bottom line is concerned. Understandably, it’s difficult to convince someone with a budget to invest money into a program from which there isn’t an abundantly clear and scheduled return.

According to Corporate Wellness Magazine, employers receive an average of $3.48 back for every dollar spent on employee wellness. Based on the fact that almost 90 percent of all health care costs are preventable, that number appears conservative. The dollar amount comes from the combined benefits of basic employee health, increased moral and happiness, increased productivity, reduced annual healthcare premiums, and reduced absenteeism.

Having a wellness program in place also contributes to the image and employee retention aspect of a business. Wellness programs are an attractive employer benefit for potential quality recruits, and fostering the kind of healthful, happy environment they tend to afford may keep strong employees around longer.

Even though the benefits of a workplace wellness program are clear, Employee Benefits News (EBN) recently conducted a survey of 245 benefits managers, administrators, and human resources professionals, which found that only 44 percent of those included were running a wellness program. Considering evidence supporting the effectiveness of successful implementation, that number seems rather low. The time to develop a workplace wellness program is now. Such a program oriented on employee health is a considerable tool in creating a long-term worker asset management strategy.

The two essential components of a successful workplace wellness program are implementation and longevity. Before you can implement, you want to determine the needs of your unique workplace. This involves scrutinizing the overall attitude and preference of your employees and may be achieved through information-gathering techniques such as confidential surveys, suggestion boxes, or one-on-one interviews.

Once needs have been identified, you need to determine the wellness program activities most appropriate for your employees. It is often recommended to include a combination of education programs and physical activity. Based on the employees’ needs and your long-term business goals, some examples may include monthly nutrition workshops, lectures from local health experts (like nutritionists, gym trainers, or health practitioners), walk-and-talk meetings, on-site fitness centers, vending machines with healthy snack options, and company sports teams. As you prepare to launch your program, remember to properly communicate the program and its resources to your employees with posters, newsletters, and bulletins. Your program can be tweaked and altered as you monitor and evaluate results and employee response over time.

Finally, in order to see that desired return on your investment into a workplace wellness program, it’s important to encourage employees to see their wellness goals all the way to the end and to maintain them for the long term. The most common method of achieving wellness longevity in the workplace is to implement incentive programs. Reasonable monetary rewards, company merchandise (like clothing or mugs), paid time off, and contributing to healthcare savings accounts are all good ways to encourage your employees to sustain their health-driven efforts and help your wellness program succeed.