Category: Worker’s Health

WORKPLACE WELLNESS IS KEY

Leave a Comment

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.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN THE WORKPLACE

Leave a Comment

The burden of protecting employees from and responding appropriately to sexual harassment is one which falls upon the employer. It is part of an employer’s larger responsibility to provide a safe and healthful workplace. Although there is a clear legal obligation involved, squashing workplace sexual harassment can protect an employer from its harmful business implications such as low morale, decreased productivity, and the high costs of litigations.

Workplace sexual harassment refers to any unwelcome verbal or physical advance of a sexual nature which creates an offensive, intimidating, or hostile work atmosphere. Guilty parties may be supervisors, managers, co-workers, and even outside sources such as vendors and customers under certain circumstances. Basically, any conduct of a sexual nature in the workplace can be defined as sexual harassment if even a single employee is made to feel uncomfortable. Keep in mind that employers are still responsible for managing sexual harassment even outside of the workplace should it occur in a work-related capacity (such as a work party or other function).

In general, workplace sexual harassment falls under two categories:

Quid Pro Quo: This is when the harasser makes employment decisions based on the victim’s favorable reaction to the sexual harassment. It is quid pro quo if an employer explicitly or implicitly suggests submission is a condition for employment (e.g. “I will hire you if you sleep with me”), or uses how the victim responds as a factor in their current employment (e.g. “You turned me down for a date, and so you will not receive this promotion”).

Hostile Environment: Most reported cases of sexual harassment fall under this category. When someone in a work environment shows conduct of a sexual nature, such as unwelcome touching, speaking, requests, or advances, or the display or sharing of sexual material, it has the potential to turn the environment into one which feels hostile to other employees. While these type of sexual harassment does not directly affect a victim’s employment or potential opportunities, it is a tremendous offense against respect and dignity, and to the individual’s ability to perform work to their best ability. It may also indirectly affect their employment in that they may choose to resign and seek employment in a less toxic environment.

Although the overwhelming majority of workplace sexual harassment claims are made by women (over 90 percent of Canadian women say they have experienced sexual harassment at work at some point in their careers), it is not gender neutral. Men can also be harassed by women, and both can be harassed by the same sex.

Common examples of sexual harassment in the workplace include:

  • Demanding physical affection, even if it’s not explicitly sexual (e.g. hugs, or kisses on the cheek)
  • Ignoring rejection and persisting that an individual goes on a date with you
  • Making sexual comments about someone’s clothing, actions, behavior, or physical attributes
  • Making jokes of a sexual nature
  • Requesting sexual favors in exchange for a reward or benefit (e.g. I’ll work your shift for you if you kiss me)
  • Insulting someone with gender-related derogatory words
  • Commenting on someone’s behavior because it does not conform to gender stereotypes (i.e. an effeminate man, or vice versa)
  • Discussing sexual encounters or prowess amongst your coworkers
  • Taking pornographic images (real, cartoon, or otherwise) and posting them at work, sharing them online to a work-related bulletin, or e-mailing them to coworkers

Let’s look at a couple of real-world scenarios:

Scenario 1: Someone in your workplace jokes that a female co-worker, recently promoted to a higher position, obtained her advancement by way of “sleeping her way to the top.” Perhaps she isn’t aware of this gossip, but it can still have a devastating impact on her image and status amongst her peers – you must put an end to it.

Scenario 2: A courier who delivers products regularly to your place of business makes unwelcome and persistent advances on the person who receives the deliveries. Even though the courier isn’t a direct employee of your business, as an employer it is your responsibility to intervene by speaking with the courier or using a different service.

What can you do?

A written sexual harassment policy is arguably the strongest tool you have as an employer. You’ll need to tailor it specifically to your individual workplace, but collecting employee concerns and reviewing previous reports with HR is a good place to start. Developing an employee handbook for employees to review upon hire will also equip them with necessary information and inform them of expectations from the get-go.

Your policy must clearly define sexual harassment. Establish commitment to zero tolerance, and inform employees of consequences should they fail to meet expectations. The policy should also include procedures for employees to follow when they need to file a sexual harassment complaint, and explain that all complaints will be thoroughly investigated. Assure employees that there is no risk for retaliation at any level for filing a complaint.

Additionally, use your policy to schedule sexual harassment training at least annually. Employees should be trained on the nature of sexual harassment and their right to a harassment-free workplace, as well as how to go about filing a complaint. Management and supervisors should be trained on handling complaints, recognizing sexual harassment across the spectrum, and how to properly intervene.  Employee and management/supervisor training should be conducted separately.

For help developing a workplace sexual harassment policy, contact us here.

 

 

 

YOUR PERSONAL LIABILITY FOR WORKPLACE SAFETY

Leave a Comment

As an employer, your greatest responsibility is that of your workers’ well-being. Moral and ethical obligations aside, you are required by law to provide a safe and healthful workplace for your employees, where their protection from harm is paramount. Such a workplace is achieved through ongoing process and safety training, comprehensive workplace safety programs, effective hazard control installations and initiatives, and the overall fostering of a positive safety culture. Safety must be the foundation of every activity in your organization, because not only is it the keystone of productivity and profitability, but a responsibility for which you are expressly liable.

The guarantee of a safe workplace was originally granted by the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970. It was designed to provide a set of broad guidelines which employers must follow to achieve maximum safety compliance. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) upholds the OSH Act by representing and enforcing standards that finely detail employer safety responsibilities and protect employee safety rights. A large part of this enforcement includes workplace auditing, report investigation, and citation for safety violations. In many cases, OSHA (along with other federal entities which oversee the management of niche hazards, such as the Department of Transportation) is the primary body which ensures employers are held accountable for their workers’ lives.

The OSH Act covers penalties which can occur a result of safety compliance violations. According to Section 17 (Penalties), employers who willfully or repeatedly violate safety requirements imposed by the Act can be fined a penalty of up to $70,000 for each violation, with a minimum fine of $5,000. The section goes on to detail a variety of circumstances under which employers can receive fines with dollar amounts based on the severity and frequency of safety infractions. While seemingly harsh and unforgiving, once again these provisions are in place to ensure appropriate consequences for employers who fail to prioritize safety in the workplace.

Remember that OSHA fines and penalties are a direct connection to employer liability; these consequences fall in addition to the myriad blows to a business’ bottom line. Damaged reputation, reduced moral, Workers’ Compensation premium increases, lost time, backlogged productivity, and possible litigations make failing to enforce safety a catastrophic shortcoming.

In addition to the general penalties it details, the OSH Act’s Section 666 provides that criminal sanctions are possible through the Department of Justice when a worker is seriously injured or killed as a result of an employer’s willful violation of safety provisions. The penalty comes with up to six months of imprisonment and fines for individuals up to $250,000. Organizations can be fined up to $500,000.

In the end, the wide variety of complicated and varied consequences of noncompliance come back to one very simple point: do everything in your power to protect your employees from harm. Although the minutia will depend on the unique characteristics of your organization, creating a safe and healthful workplace can be achieved by employing the following key workplace elements:

Training: Training is by far the most valuable tool at your disposal as an employer. Not only does it give workers the skills and knowledge they need to help make your business profitable, it teaches them about the nature of workplace hazards and how to disarm, minimize, or altogether avoid them. Keep in mind that many liability lawsuits have arisen from negligence occurring after training; formal initial training is not enough. You must ensure that workers are supervised by qualified personnel when they officially begin work, and monitored closely for as long as it takes to ensure they can expertly and safely execute the elements of their training.

Hazard Investigation: Safety is a proactive process. Do not wait for a hazard to manifest – you must track it down and neutralize it before it has the opportunity to do harm. This includes hazard analyses and incident investigations, all of which should be documented and filed for both compliance and future use.

Employee Involvement: It should be abundantly clear to your employees that they have a stake in their own safety. It is against the law to discipline or retaliate against a worker who reports unsafe work conditions, or refuses to perform work under those conditions. Creating an atmosphere in which employees feel they can safely participate in bringing hazards to your attention will result in a tremendous swell of involvement.

Workplace Safety Program: It’s important to have written documentation on file which covers all items related to workplace procedures. This includes operations, responsibilities at all employee levels from the bottom to the top, identification, protection from, and control of hazards, and expectations. Should an injury occur, you will want as much written proof as possible that your organization has identified and implemented all necessary actions towards protecting its employees. This can be a large task, but its value is immeasurable.

 

 

COLD WEATHER IS RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER

Leave a Comment

With cooler temperatures setting in and winter proper right around the corner, workers around the country are facing a uniquely seasonal variety of injuries known as “cold stress.” Although cold stress is possible any time of year, cold weather along with a number of other environmental factors can expose unprepared workers to extreme bodily harm, and even death. Before it gets any colder, now is a good time for businesses to examine their cold stress prevention policies to ensure employees have the tools, knowledge, and training they need to stay warm and work safely.

Awareness and preparedness are the two critical elements of cold stress prevention. It’s important to understand how the human body maintains and regulates its temperature, and how to recognize the warning signs which develop when those systems are failing. Because a variety of factors contribute to cold stress injuries – not just extreme temperatures alone – a worker could be suffering even if it doesn’t seem all that cold outside; having the skills to spot symptoms outside of expected conditions could be crucial for someone’s survival.

Though the right conditions can put anyone at risk, there are some occupations which, by their very nature, put workers in a position to be more frequently exposed to cold weather. These occupations can include sanitation, outdoor construction, snow removal, law enforcement, and emergency response (i.e. firefighters and emergency medical crews).

Conditions (aside from low temperatures) which increase the risk of cold stress include:

  • Moisture or damp clothes
  • Wind
  • Time of day (specifically, how much sun warmth is present)
  • Dehydration and physical exhaustion
  • Age (your body does not regulate temperature as efficiently as you get older)
  • Certain health conditions such as hypertension and diabetes
  • Poor or ineffective clothing and personal protective equipment
  • Lack of training

Cold stress injuries occur when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it. Your body tries to maintain a core temperature of 98.6°F (37°C). As you are exposed to lower temperatures, your body will prioritize its heat by taking it away from your extremities and reallocating it to the vital internal organs at your core (chest, abdomen). This is why the first places you feel cold are your fingers, toes, nose, and ears. Exposed skin (especially extremities) can quickly develop cold stress ailments such as frostbite and chilblains. Once your body’s internal temperature reaches 95°F (35°C), hypothermia will begin to set in.

Moisture is the enemy. To drive the point home, that really bears repeating – moisture is the enemy. The simplest way to understand this concept is to consider our body’s primary self-cooling function: perspiration. When the body needs to cool itself down, it expels moisture through the pores. Firstly, moisture conducts heat 25 percent faster than air, carrying it from the body. Then, the heat is carried away further when the sweat evaporates. So if the human body is using moisture as a life-saving measure to remove heat, imagine how detrimental it would be if the body were already cold.

Wind isn’t much better than moisture. Your body naturally radiates heat, leaving what we’ll call a thin “heat shield” over your skin. Moving air acts as a conductor, blowing the heat shield away and forcing your body to expend precious energy in order to produce a new one. This works much in the same way as blowing on your hot soup before you eat it – the moving air cools the soup down faster. You’ve probably heard your local television weather anchors discuss “wind chill,” which is a function to describe how cold it feels after actual outside temperature and wind speeds are calculated together. The greater the wind speeds, the colder it feels.

Now that we have an idea how our bodies work in the cold, what are some ways we can protect workers from cold stress?

Layering

Dressing properly is probably the most important step you can actively take to prevent cold stress. Wear at least three layers. The inner-most layer should be made of wool (or another animal fiber), silk, or a synthetic/synthetic blend to absorb and keep moisture away. The middle layer should be animal fiber or synthetic for the insulation properties, even when wet. The outermost layer should allow for ventilation and built for protecting against wind and rain. Avoid cotton.

Engineering Controls

Engineering controls are ways for an employer to set up and design a work space to eliminate or minimize a hazard. In cold-weather situations, engineering controls can include radiant heaters, indoor heated rest areas, and even erecting barriers to protect workers from the wind.

Scheduling

In some areas of the country, the dead of winter comes with brutal winter chill 24 hours a day. Employers can still monitor the weather and attempt to schedule work during the warm(est) times of day.

Safe Work Practices

Promoting safe behavior during the work day can go a long way. Provide warm, sweet liquids while avoiding caffeine or other diuretics which could contribute to dehydration. No one should ever work alone; workers should be scheduled with at least one buddy, as it’s sometimes easier to recognize cold stress symptoms in others than in yourself. New employees, or those unaccustomed to working in extreme temperatures, should be acclimated slowly through gradual schedule increases and rest time decreases (start them with more frequent breaks).

Training

Ultimately, formal training is the way to go. Never send a worker into a cold environment without the knowledge they need to keep themselves and others safe. Workers should know how to prevent and recognize cold stress illnesses, and how to address them with first aid should they appear. For more safety and training resources for cold stress prevention, visit www.safetyservicescompany.com.

 

HEAT ILLNESS: AWARENESS AND PROTECTING WORKERS

Leave a Comment

As we transition to warmer temperatures, it’s important to revisit your workplace’s Heat Illness Prevention Program to ensure your employees are equipped to combat heat-related stress and illnesses. Heat is the number one cause of weather-related fatalities in the United States despite the fact that most heat-related deaths are preventable.

Average high temperatures have seen a steady increase across the country over the past couple of decades. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) anticipates that average temperatures will continue to increase, and heat waves will become more frequent and impactful. This prediction should encourage all businesses to look at how their employees are exposed to high temperatures, and what they can do to accommodate.

Businesses with employees who perform work in moderate to high temperatures or humid conditions, especially where increased heart rate and perspiration are concerned, must be given the necessary tools to recognize, understand, and prevent heat stress illnesses.

Essentially, heat stress prevention comes down to workplace design, employee training, and effective work procedures. Design and procedures will vary greatly depending on geographical location and the type of work being performed. Businesses should keep in mind that heat stress can occur regardless of the time of year, in both outdoor and indoor conditions. Required personal protective equipment (PPE) can also have a significant impact on the body’s ability to expel heat. Workers involved with hazardous waste operations or asbestos removal, for example, are often required to wear impermeable protective equipment which can trap heat close to the body. A thorough risk assessment will help businesses identify risk elements such as these.

A strong working knowledge of how the body regulates heat, and how personal factors can affect that regulation, is an extremely valuable tool in prevention. The human body needs to maintain a core temperature between 96.8 (36) and 100.4 (38) degrees Fahrenheit to function at peak performance. Weather conditions, manual labor, and personal factors can cause the core temperature to increase, which can lead to the development of a series of heat-related illnesses.

To regulate internal temperature, the body uses two basic mechanisms. The first is to increase the heart rate which assists in moving blood and heat away from vital organs to the skin. The second is perspiration, during which the body expels heat in moisture through the pores, which then evaporates and carries heat away in the process. Personal factors, such as acclimatization, caffeine and alcohol consumption, hydration replenishment, general health, age, and certain prescription medications can affect how well these mechanisms work and should be taken into consideration before performing work in high temperatures. Perspiration is the more effective of the two mechanisms, which means that proper hydration to replenish fluids lost as sweat is absolutely essential.

There are four common disorders which surface as a result of heat stress, ranging from mild discomfort to life-threatening conditions:

Heat rash is the most common ailment which occurs while working in the heat. It is also called “prickly heat.” Symptoms include red, blotchy, itchy skin, particularly in areas of the body with high perspiration, and a prickling sensation. Rashes which aren’t cleaned thoroughly and frequently may become infected. Moving to a cool environment, cleaning the affected area with cool water, and complete drying are often effective treatments.

Heat cramps occur as a result of salt being lost through perspiration. They are painful muscle spasms causing lumps in the affected muscles, usually the back, legs, and arms. The pain can be severe enough to greatly inhibit movement. Workers should cease activities to tend to cramps as soon as they feel them. Stretching and massaging the affected muscle as well as replacing salt by drinking electrolyte replacement fluids are useful techniques in tending to heat cramps.

Heat exhaustion is a dangerous result of heat stress which can lead to a heat stroke if not treated promptly with first aid. It happens when the body is so overexerted that it cannot supply blood simultaneously to vital organs and the skin for temperature regulations. Inflicted workers may experience weakness, headache, breathlessness, nausea, vomiting, faintness, or loss of consciousness. Call 911 and move workers exhibiting these symptoms to a cool place and give them water to drink. Remove any clothing that isn’t necessary and loosen other clothing. Shower or sponge them down with cool water. It will take at least 30 minutes for the body to cool down after experiencing heat exhaustion.

Heat stroke is a disorder which requires immediate medical attention, and can lead rapidly to fatality if not treated quickly. A person experiencing a heat stroke may experience confusion, hot, dry skin, high body temperatures, lack of sweating, irrational behavior, convulsions, and/or a loss of consciousness. Call 911 right away and take the victim to a cool area to immerse or shower them with cool water. Wrap them in wet sheets and fan them until you can transport them to a hospital or an ambulance arrives.

Knowledge can mean the difference between life and death during a critical victimization of heat stress. Workers should understand the nature and symptoms of heat-related illnesses both in a sense of recognizing them in themselves, and when a coworker is suffering. In many cases, a quick and efficient response can save a heat stress victim from numerous long-term effects that would have otherwise occurred had symptoms gone untreated. Proper training and a strong Heat Stress Prevention Program will help protect worker health year round.

 

SLEEP AND THE SHIFT WORKER

1 Comment

People are physiologically programmed to sleep during the night and be active during the day. This is known as the sleep-wake cycle. Consequently, shift workers are especially prone to sleep disturbances, sleep deprivation and misalignment of the sleep-wake cycle, all of which lead to sleepiness, fatigue and associated performance deficits.

People don’t fully adapt to shift work. This is particularly true for evening work, night work and rotating shift schedules. For example, night work requires restorative sleep during the day which is often shorter, lighter and less restorative than nocturnal sleep.

Most shift working industries are required to identify, assess and control fatigue as part of their health and safety management system. This is no simple matter, particularly for personnel working in hazardous environments or performing safety critical tasks, such as heavy vehicle operators in the road transport or mining industries.

Even the best designed fatigue management plans cannot regulate sleep behaviors during rest periods or days off. Insufficient restorative sleep will increase levels of fatigue with each consecutive shift. This can be further exacerbated by rotating shifts due to the changes and disruptions in sleep/wake patterns during changeover periods.

An effective fatigue management plan should offer strategies to counteract fatigue. While the only true cure for fatigue is sleep, shift workers will need to rely on naps to maintain alertness, and caffeine can be effective to some degree depending on the individual. But keep in mind that these will only reduce the risk of a fatigue-related incident, they cannot eliminate the risk.

Technology that can objectively detect the early signs of fatigue in real-time can be used to effectively complement organizational and regulatory approaches to improve fatigue management. The ability to continuously assess operator fatigue, regardless of factors such as time-of day (sleep-wake cycle), previous amount and quality of sleep, effect of drugs or alcohol, or undiagnosed sleep disorders, would be beneficial to any fatigue management plan.

Fatigue Management: Keeping Workers Alert

Leave a Comment

Fatigue Management Plan

What do the Metro North derailment, Exxon Valdez, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and a few other notable aircraft incidents have in common? Fatigue. Employee fatigue played a role in all these tragedies and many more. As an employer, you must ensure your workers are not experiencing signs or effects of fatigue on the job. You can help make your workers and your business safer by including information on fatigue and sleep in your safety guidelines and orientations. You can also develop a fatigue management plan.

Fatigue

Fatigue is a state of feeling very tired, exhausted, weary, or sleepy. This results from a lack of sleep and can be heightened from prolonged mental activity or long periods of stress or anxiety. Boring or repetitive tasks can also intensify feelings of fatigue. Fatigue can be acute or chronic. Acute fatigue results from a sudden onset of short-term sleep loss, such as getting less sleep than normal before a work shift. Adequate sleep is necessary to reverse the effects of acute fatigue. Chronic fatigue is a long-term state that results from an extended loss of necessary sleep. A sleep debt can build over weeks or months from a reduction or disruption of a normal sleep routine.

Shift Schedules

Create shift schedules that give workers enough time for continuous sleep. If the job requires long hours or overtime, consider that your workers will need enough time for other daily activities, such as commuting, preparing and eating meals, socializing, and relaxing. Provide a work environment that has good lighting, comfortable temperatures, and reasonable noise levels.

Ensure that jobs provide some variety, with work tasks that change throughout the shift. Be flexible when assigning tasks — assign workers who may be fatigued to tasks that aren’t safety sensitive.

If your workplace has long shifts or frequent overtime, consider providing amenities, such as the following:

  • Prepared meals
  • On-site accommodations
  • Facilities where workers can nap either during the shift or before driving home

People need at least 7.5 to 8.5 hours of sleep a day. Studies have found that most night-shift workers get less sleep per week than those who work day shifts. The quality of sleep during the day is not the same as during the night.

Improving Quality of Sleep

Here are some guidelines you can pass on to your workers for improving quality of sleep:

  • Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
  • Turn out the light immediately when going to bed.
  • Don’t read or watch television in bed.
  • Make your room as dark and quiet as possible. Some people sleep better in a cool room.
  • Establish regular eating times.
  • Avoid caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol, especially before bedtime.
  • Exercise regularly.

Call (888) 886-0350 today to speak with one of our safety solutions experts.

Jobsite Asbestos and Mesothelioma Resources

1 Comment

Samantha Catalano from the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center contacted me about some of the different resources and information they provide. The sites looks to be a great resource of information, namely the free informational packet they send out. Here’s some basic information for you.

Mesothelioma & Asbestos Awareness Center

Jobsite safety is a concern for all employers and their workers nationwide. There are an array of on-the-job hazards that present a potential risk, and one such hazard is that of asbestos. Asbestos is an occupational danger that many individuals may not consider, but it is a very real threat. There are millions of professionals in the U.S. that may be exposed to asbestos while at work, including mechanics, firefighters, damage restoration technicians, custodians, contractors, engineers, miners, steel workers, power plant workers, and more.

Asbestos-containing materials are present in over 35 million buildings nationwide, including residences and workplaces. Asbestos was also commonly found in many structural implements prior to the 1980’s, including insulation, drywall, acoustical plaster, roofing tiles, floor and ceiling tiles, and more. When these materials are disturbed or damaged, the tiny asbestos fibers may become friable, putting workers on various jobsites at risk for inhalation. If inhaled, these tiny fibers, which have a claw-like structure, can cling to the pleural lining of the lungs for an upward of fifty years before an individual may experience symptoms related to mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a deadly form of lung cancer that has no known cure and a survival rate of less than 1%.

There are a variety of methods that should be applied on any jobsite where they may be asbestos present. Proper ventilation is crucial in any workspace where individuals may interact with asbestos-containing materials. In addition, all workers should wear protective gear, such as eyewear, disposable clothing, and gloves. Masks or self-contained breathing apparatuses should be worn at all times to avoid inhalation of asbestos fibers. All workers who may handle asbestos should also be informed of proper asbestos removal and disposal regulations and must adhere to these guidelines to ensure safety.

Exposure to asbestos may manifest itself decades later in the form of a deadly lung cancer. Workers who may handle asbestos should take all necessary precautions to protect themselves and their work environment. If an individual suspects that they have been exposed to asbestos while at work, they should consult a physician as soon as possible.

The Mesothelioma & Asbestos Awareness Center is a great resource for information related to asbestos exposure, mesothelioma, mesothelioma treatment options, and more. Please visit them for more information.

Tips for Team Lifting

Leave a Comment

Two Person Lifting Techniques

Do you have trouble communicating to your workers that two heads are better than one? Today, we’re going to cover tried-and-true two person lifting techniques.

Sometimes two sets of hands, as well as two bodies, can be better then one; especially when it comes to lifting items that require more than one worker to lift.

Injuries

Lifting injuries are not just confined to back injuries. Lifting results in work-related musculoskeletal disorders that include:

  • 13% of the hand/wrist
  • 22% of the elbow
  • 30% of the shoulder
  • 43% of the back

Lifting heavy items is one of the leading causes of injury (overexertion and cumulative trauma) in the workplace.

Smart Lifting Practices

Team lifting must be coordinated with all actions communicated between team members.

When you use smart lifting practices and work in your power zone, you are less likely to suffer from back sprains, muscle pulls, wrist injuries, elbow injuries, spinal injuries, and other injuries caused by lifting those heavy objects.

Training all by itself, without making changes to the workplace, is often not effective in preventing injuries.

Often workers are taught “proper lifting techniques” and then sent out to work under conditions that do not allow them to use these techniques.

Communication is essential.

  • Size up the load and check over-all conditions.
  • If the weight, shape, or size of an object makes the job too much for one person, ask for help.
  • Do not handle it on your own.
  • A rule of thumb is to use one person for every 50 pounds.
  • Wear proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to avoid finger injuries and contact stress.
  • Ensure that gloves fit properly and provide adequate grip to reduce the chance of dropping the load.
  • Wear non-slip soled footwear to provide sure footing.
  • Make sure there is enough space for movement and that the footing is good.
  • Be sure there are no obstructions in the planned path of movement for the load to prevent tripping.
  • Keep an eye on where you place your feet while in transit.
  • Workers should be approximately the same size for team lifting. Same size lifters will keep the item being carried well balanced.
  • Divide the weight lifted in half when two workers lift together.
  • One person needs to be responsible for control of the action to ensure proper coordination. Select this person before the lift begins.
  • Remember; if one worker lifts too soon, shifts the load, or lowers it too soon, either worker may be injured. Coordinate voice signals.
  • Utilize proper handholds, including handles, slots, or holes with enough room to accommodate gloved hands. Use metal bars for reels.
  • Both workers must work together and communicate expected actions. If you need more than the two of you to lift, ask for assistance. Some items can be slid rather than lifted. Use mechanical assistance when available. Mobile transporters can alleviate lengthy lifts.

Team Lifting

Follow these steps when team lifting:

1) Take a balanced stance with your feet about shoulder-width apart. (It is okay to put one foot behind the object and the other next to it.) Communicate that you are ready.

2) Squat down but keep your heels off the floor (on the balls of your feet). Get as close as you can to the object.

3) Use your palms and not just your fingers to get a secure grip on the object. Make sure that this grip will hold and you will not have to switch your grip later.

4) Lift slowly (without jerking) using your leg, abdominal and buttock muscles while keeping the load as close as possible to you. Continue communicating with helper.

5) Once you are standing “do not twist” when you change directions. Point your feet in the direction you want to go and then turn your whole body. Do not twist with the object while you are walking.

6) To lower the load or place the object, use these same guidelines in reverse. Communicate until lift is over.

I appreciate your feedback, please let us know if you have anything you would like to add, or if you have any other tips on team lifting.

We have complete OSHA compliant safety solutions for all your needs. Call (877) 476-8979 today to speak with one of our highly skilled safety experts.

Related Links:

Top 10 OSHA Fines for Small Companies

Forklift eTool: New OSHA Release

OSHA Announces Top 10 Most Cited Violations

Forklift Safety with Proper Training, Inspection and Operation

PPE and How It Can Save Your Life – Part 1

Vacations and Video Display Disease: Ergonomics for People Working on Computers

2 Comments

Our writing team has been out on extended vacation, but we’re back in full swing. Today we talk about proper ergonomics for people who work on computers.

Do you ever get VDD (Video Display Disease) from your VDT (Video Display Terminal)?

Yes, I do too. The long hours at the computer can add up to all kinds of health problems. My boss will not spend the money to buy me an ergonomic chair. There are many new chairs that would improve my productivity. Here is what I experience. How about you?

Back Problem: When my chair is too soft, I sink into the seat pan. This restricts movement and causes thigh, buttock, and lower back fatigue. When my chair is too hard, I need to change postures frequently to relieve thigh and buttock discomfort. What a bummer!

What should I do?

Your chair should be designed to allow free movement while sitting. The chair must be properly designed for comfort, efficiency, and the task. Because your chair is a very personal item, you must be involved in the selection and purchase of the chair. This will ensure that you are satisfied with your chair and that the best chair has been selected for you.

When a display screen is too low, it causes me to lean forward, slouch down, or lower my chair to improve screen viewing. This can cause the lower curve of my back to flatten as a result of no lumbar support.

So what do I do? Raise the monitor to the correct viewing height, so that the topmost active line of the character display on the screen is at or just below your eye level.

Remember; neck problems are often related to the VDT monitor height, the absence of a document holder, or improper positioning of the holder.

Shoulder problems: Shoulder strain can occur when my arms are positioned too high or too low. When my hands and arms are too high, they tend to pull my shoulders up, straining my shoulder and back muscles. When my hands and arms are too low, they pull my shoulders down, putting pressure on my shoulder and back muscles and compressing nerves in my neck and arms.

What should I do?

Adjust your keyboard or chair and reinforce the principle of keeping your hands, arms, and forearms parallel to the keyboard.

Muscle fatigue problems: My VDT work consists of fixed posture and repetitive motions, resulting in local muscle fatigue. My muscles need rest to prevent discomfort, fatigue, and possible injury or illness.

What should I do?

To reduce your muscle fatigue:

1. Take frequent breaks of shorter duration (three to five minutes) every hour.

2. Change job tasks to reduce fatigue and monotony, allowing different sets of muscles to be used.

3. Exercise to help relax tight muscles, reduce stress, and lessen the sense of general fatigue.

If you know of a chair that is available to reduce these VDD problems, let me know. I will present it to my boss and hopefully she will listen to you, since she doesn’t seem to listen to me!

Patrick Brayton

Related Links:

Better Workplace Safety with Ergonomics: Sources of Ergonomics Newsletters, Conferences, and Discussion Forums

Top 7 Tips on Using the 2006 Census to Improve Workplace Safety

OSHA Announces Top 10 Most Cited Violations