Changes in First Aid Recommendations for the Workplace

First Aid training is probably the only type of instruction an employer provides that everyone in the workplace hopes never to need. However, when an injury or illness strikes, knowing how to effectively administer proper First Aid can be the deciding factor between a quick or a lengthy recovery, a temporary or permanent disability, and in some cases, life or death. That is why it is imperative to be familiar with common First Aid procedures. It is equally significant to learn the correct way to administer aid procedures so they are safe to perform.

In an attempt to discredit some of the faulty notions that have developed concerning current First Aid treatment recommendations, the American Safety & Health Institute (ASHI) along with 25 other nationally recognized organizations joined together to form the 2005 National First Aid Science Advisory Board (NFASAB). The Board’s mission was to review and evaluate the existing scientific literature on First Aid to determine the most effective treatments for common workplace injuries. They reviewed data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cochrane Reviews, which are evidence-based evaluations of the effects of health care treatments, the U.S. National Library of Medicine, and medical journals and textbooks.

As a result of the Board’s review and evaluation of this data, they recommend the following procedures:

  • If an employee is bleeding, apply pressure firmly for an extended period of time, until either bleeding stops or paramedics arrive . Earlier guidelines also recommended elevating a bleeding limb above heart level and, if direct pressure was ineffective, pressing on specific arterial points. Actual evidence is insufficient to recommend for or against these practices and also the use of tourniquets .
  • Thermal burns should be treated with cold water as soon as possible, but direct application of ice to a burn area can cause harm. Avoid cooling burns with ice or ice water for longer than 10 minutes, especially if the burn covers more than 20% of a person’s body.
  • If an employee has a soft-tissue injury such as a sprain, strain, contusion or fracture, apply cold to the injury to decrease hemorrhage, edema, pain and disability. Cooling is best accomplished with a plastic bag or damp cloth filled with ice, which is more effective than re-freezable gel packs. To prevent injury, limit each application to periods of no more than 20 minutes and place a barrier, such as a thin towel, between the ice container and the skin .
  • To prevent a minor wound from becoming infected, cleanse the wound with clean tap water until all foreign matter has been flushed. Apply triple-antibiotic ointment or cream only to a scratch or superficial wound. Previous methods recommended applying antibiotic to all wounds no matter how deep.
  • Do not give water, milk or syrup of ipecac to someone who has ingested poison. Previous guidelines allowed use of these substances in certain cases after consultation with a poison control center, but they may be harmful and are not recommended now.

By keeping yourself and your employees up to date with basic First Aid care, as well as maintaining a well-stocked First Aid kit on-site, you can significantly reduce the chance of a severe trauma that could have been prevented by simple First Aid. 

Preventing Violence Before It Happens Through Pre-Employment Screening

Violence in the workplace has become an increasingly more common occurrence. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in its 2004 report entitled Fatal Occupational Injuries by Event or Exposure, 1998-2003, there were 631 documented workplace homicides in 2003. Workplace homicides are the second leading cause of death in the workplace and they make up 16% of all occupational fatalities.

With statistics like these, it is the duty of every employer to make violence prevention a number one priority. Avoiding potential violence should begin with the hiring process. This is the company’s opportunity to weed out any violent individuals before they get a foothold in the workplace.

The pre-employment screening process begins with the application. If an applicant omits information or there are gaps of time in the area of job history, the applicant should be instructed to fill in the missing information. If the applicant cannot provide the information, the employer needs to determine when and if it can be provided, note it on the application and then follow through with getting the information if the person selected is to be given an employment offer. Ensure that all of an applicant’s information is on hand before any offer is made.

The interviewer will have the most significant opportunity to assess the applicant’s stability. Begin with the person’s overall physical appearance and grooming. Is it interview appropriate? The next level of assessment involves body language and eye contact. While the applicant is speaking, are they looking you in the eye while answering questions in a relaxed manner? What is your own comfort level during the interview? What is the applicant’s response level to questions? Do they answer the questions asked or are they evasive? Do they provide too little information or do they go out of their way to give an elaborate explanation? By discussing what an applicant liked or disliked about the tasks associated with different jobs they held and why they left those jobs, an interviewer can often get a sense of possible aggression towards the company that if pushed far enough can manifest itself in workplace violence.

If the applicant seems acceptable, then the next step is to do a thorough background check. This is the major area where most companies fall short in the evaluation process. If you do not get an immediate response from a past employer or a reference, follow up until you do. Don’t assume that the failure is due to being too busy to respond. Sometimes the lack of response is avoidance. It is not unheard of for one company to pass a problem employee off on another. To investigate further, in addition to the telephone background check, you can also examine court records, credit reports and driving records.  However be advised that you need a signed release from the applicant to conduct this type of background screening. Your corporate counsel should be your consultant in the development of any pre-employment screening methodologies to be sure they do not violate existing laws.

Many companies also conduct drug testing as part of their pre-employment screening process. Drug testing identifies individuals who have the potential to become problem employees.  It is easier to eliminate individuals on the basis of failing a drug test prior to employment then it is to terminate them once they have been employed. While drug testing doesn’t eliminate all potential problem employees, it does reduce their number.

No matter what procedures you use to screen applicants, the important thing to remember is that you must follow through. If you only make a half-hearted attempt, it’s the equivalent of no attempt at all. 

Understanding Material Safety Data Sheets Can Save You from Injury

For many workers, handling hazardous chemicals is part of their daily routine. However, no matter how routine, you should never let your guard down when it comes to handling chemicals properly. Each chemical has its own set of hazards, which means the recommended emergency procedures for each chemical are different. If you are going to handle chemicals safely, you should be aware of the manufacturer’s recommended handling and storage procedures, the personal protective equipment you will need when handling, and the actions to take in the event of a chemical spill or leak.

You can find this information on the “Material Safety Data Sheet” (MSDS), which must be sent from the manufacturer/supplier along with the chemical. OSHA requires all chemical manufacturers/suppliers to provide customers with MSDS’s that answer the questions listed above. However, OSHA does not require that MSDS’s be written in a standard format and most are written in technical language, which can be difficult to understand.

Realizing the need for standardization, The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Chemical Manufacturers Association developed a standard format for MSDS’s. While its use is voluntary, many chemical manufacturers/suppliers have already adopted this format. The information provided by this format is broken down into the following sections:

Section 1 lists the manufacturer’s name, address and telephone number, the product name, the generic names for the chemical, the commonly used industry name and possibly, an emergency telephone number.

Section 2 provides information on the chemical’s ingredients. OSHA requires that all hazardous components be listed on the MSDS. Non-hazardous ingredients are usually included too if helpful in determining how to use and store the chemical.

Section 3 identifies the hazards of the material. This section is divided into two sub-sections. The first sub-section provides an overview and the second sub-section discusses the potential health effects of the chemical.

Section 4 describes basic first aid procedures to be used by a worker with no specific training in first aid. Instructions are provided for each type of potential exposure.

Sections 5 and 6 provide information, precautions and instructions to fight fires caused by the material, including hazards the material presents when burned and what methods can be used to extinguish flames.

Section 7 addresses risk prevention when working with the material, including proper storage procedures.

Section 8 discusses controls and protective equipment.

Section 9 describes the physical and chemical properties of the material.

Section 10 contains information on stability and reactivity of the chemical including whether the chemical has the potential to react with another substance due to oxidation, heat, decomposition or polymerization.

Sections 11 through 13 outline toxological and ecological information, including how to dispose of the chemical.

Sections 14 through 16 explain methods to transport the chemical.

Material Safety Data Sheets are important tools when working with hazardous chemicals. Of course, a tool is only effective if you understand how to use it. Be sure you know where the MSDS’s are kept for the chemicals you use and familiarize yourself with them. And most importantly, know where you can find the emergency information on all of the MSDS’s for chemicals in your work area.

Tips to Prevent Sprains and Strains At Work

Many jobs require lifting and pushing in one form or another as part of the routine job description. Employees that frequently lift or push objects need to be aware that lifting, pushing, and over reaching can cause strains and sprains. Such injuries typically affect the back, arms, and shoulders and are caused by improper handling techniques. If your job requires you to push, pull or lift during the day, make sure you know how to perform these activities properly.

The first issue to keep in mind is that most strains and sprains happen because people lift objects that weigh too much. Before lifting anything, size up the load to determine if you have the physical strength to lift without straining. If you don’t possess the physical capability, you can either break it down into smaller loads, if applicable, or seek help from a co-worker. If you use carts or hand trucks, be sure they are in good operating condition. These devices can put additional strain on your back if they don’t work correctly or if you overload them.

If it is within your physical capability to lift the load, then be sure that you use the correct procedure. Stand close to the object. Then squat down and bend your knees, not your back. Grip the object firmly and lift slowly. As you lift, straighten your legs until you are standing erect. Carry the load close to your body near your waist. Never lift the object above your shoulders. If you have to turn while lifting, point your feet in the direction you’ll be heading; don’t twist your back.

If you must push or pull a load, bend your knees and use your legs and the weight of your body to move it. Take small steps and keep your stomach muscles tightened. You should lean slightly into the load if you are pushing, and lean slightly out if pulling. Note that it’s always better for your body if you can push rather than pull an object.

Repeatedly lifting heavy objects is the most common cause of strains and sprains. However, injuries can also happen as a result of lifting moderate loads in awkward positions or remaining in a bent-over or twisted position for long periods of time. Remember, the further the load is from your body, the greater strain placed on your back. You should always attempt to position any load you are carrying at waist level. Keep your body as close to the work area as is safely possible. And most importantly, never overestimate your physical ability to lift or carry an object.

Follow Safety Standards, And Common Sense, To Ensure Safe Scaffold Use

A scaffold is an elevated, temporary work platform that is engineered in a specific manner to support a defined weight load. Ensuring the safety of workers who utilize scaffolds, and avoiding injury to nearby people or property, requires choosing equipment that meets current safety standards, installing it as directed by the manufacturer, and using it for its intended purpose. Any tampering with the construction or weight load can result in injury or death.

The first consideration when practicing scaffolding safety is proper selection. Only use scaffolds that have been tested to the ANSI/SSFI SC 100 standard. When choosing a suspended scaffold, be sure that the hoist complies with ANSI/UL 1323 and that it has been tested and approved by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or ETL Testing Laboratories. Parapet clamps, cornice hooks and outrigger beams should be tested to the ANSI/SSFI SPS 1.1 standard.

One of the problems associated with scaffold use is collapsing, which can result when the scaffold is overloaded or improperly assembled. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions concerning loading. Evaluate the weight of the workers and materials that the scaffold will support, and determine if the buildings or structures that may be used to support the scaffold are adequate for that weight load.

Another common accident involving scaffolds is overturning or tipping, which can occur if a scaffold is not properly tied. The general rule is that ties must be installed if the scaffold height, as measured to the uppermost platform, is greater than four times the smallest base dimension. Cantilevered platforms, such as side brackets and hoist arms, can exacerbate the problem of overturning and may require that the scaffold be tied at lower points. Additional ties may be necessary if an enclosure is put on the scaffold, because any enclosure, even an open mesh one, increases wind loading, which can cause overturning.

Scaffolds should be equipped with toeboards to avoid injuries to the people and property below from falling tools, materials or debris. The ANSI/ASSE A10.8 standard says that toeboards are required with guardrail systems on all open sides and ends of a scaffold if the structure is in a location where individuals are required to work or pass under it.

The standard goes on to say that when materials are piled higher than the toeboard, the scaffold must be equipped with a safety screen that is strong enough to prevent objects from falling. The screen must be positioned between the toeboard and the toprail and extend along the entire opening.

When a scaffold is in use, don’t allow workers to remove a scaffold component without authorization, because it may cause the structure to become unstable or render safety equipment dysfunctional. You should also never permit workers to alter scaffold components or use them for purposes for which they were not designed.

If a rolling scaffold is being used, wheels or casters must be locked to prevent scaffold movement. In addition, the top platform height, as measured from the rolling surface, must not exceed four times the smallest base dimension. Secure or remove all materials from rolling scaffolds before moving them. Never permit workers to ride a rolling scaffold.

By following established safety standards, and using a common-sense approach, you’ll be able to avoid some of the most common accidents and injuries that can result from scaffold use.

Compressed Air: The Least Recognized Hazardous Material

Workers in many industries use compressed air as a power source for their tools and equipment. Unfortunately, workers sometimes don’t realize the potential dangers inherent in compressed air use, so they fail to take necessary safety precautions. Improper compressed air usage can result in disabling injuries and possible death.

In training employees about compressed air use, first discuss the three major hazards:

·   Skin penetration that causes hemorrhaging and pain-Compressed air can enter the body through cuts in the skin. If this happens, an embolism (air bubble) may form in the bloodstream. If the embolism migrates through the circulatory system to the heart or lungs, it can cause a blockage in a blood vessel in the organ, which could result in death. If compressed air enters the body through the mouth or nose, it can injure internal tissues and organs. If an employee is hit in the eye with compressed air, it can push the eyeball out of the socket. Blowing compressed air into an ear can rupture the eardrum.

·   Flying debris-Air pressure of 40 pounds can cause particles to hit the eyes and face with the same intensity as shrapnel. Flying particles can also cause cuts to other parts of the body.

·   High noise level-Noise levels caused by compressed air usage can reach or exceed 120 decibels, a level at which hearing damage can occur.

Any training about the correct use of compressed air should include instruction on the need to wear personal protective equipment (PPE). Wearing PPE is essential if an employee is to be protected from the dangers outlined above. You should require all employees working with compressed air to wear safety glasses with side shields or goggles, a face shield, hearing protection, and a dust mask or respirator.

Compressed air safety training also should cover the following rules:

·   Check to see that the line being worked with is an air hose, and not a gas or water line.

·   Inspect the hose to see that it is free of holes, and properly connected.

·   Keep air hoses off the floor so they won’t be damaged by foot traffic. Hoses laying on the floor also pose a tripping hazard.

·   Don’t allow sharp objects to rub against an air hose while it is in use.

·   Coil the hose when it’s not in use and hang over a wide support. Never hang it on a hook or nail. Check the coiled hose and smooth out any kinks, which can cause cracking in the hose.

·   Use the lowest air pressure possible to complete the job.

·   Never point an air hose at anyone.

·   Never use an air hose to clean dust from clothes. Use a brush or vacuum instead.

Incorporating correct compressed air usage guidelines into your company’s safety protocols helps your employees to avoid unnecessary and dangerous working conditions, and can reduce the number of accidents that occur.

Use Foresight When It Comes to Protecting Your Eyes

The way we see involves a complex interplay between light, brain and eye. When light strikes an object in your field of vision, the rays enter each eye and hit the eye’s lens. The rays stimulate the nerves in the lens, which carry messages to the brain. The brain takes the message it receives from each eye’s lens and fuses it into a sharp single picture. Because this mechanism is so complex, it is also extremely vulnerable to injury. Therefore, protecting your eyes from damage at work should be one of your major concerns.

One of the best ways to protect your eyes is by using safety glasses. Safety glasses are so effective in preventing injury that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) incorporated specific guidelines into its standard, 29 CFR 1910.1333, as to when you should use them. If your work exposes you to hazards from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation, OSHA mandates that you wear safety glasses.

OSHA also requires that you use safety glasses with side protection when you face a hazard from flying objects. Detachable side protectors, such as clip-on or slide-on side shields, are permitted as long as they meet the agency’s requirements of providing full protection from flying objects.

If you wear prescription lenses, you are still required to wear safety glasses if the possibility of eye injury exists. You have two options. You can wear eye protection that has your prescription incorporated into its design. Or, you can use eye protection that can be worn over your prescription lenses, as long as doing so doesn’t disturb the proper position of the prescription lenses or the protective lenses.

In addition to wearing safety glasses, you should protect your eyes by having a thorough eye examination every two years. Many diseases can affect the eyes. However, changes in vision are usually gradual, which is why it is so important to monitor eye health with regular examinations.

Here are a few other tips to help you keep your eyes healthy:

·   Don’t use over-the-counter eye remedies or treatments unless advised by your doctor.

·   Don’t wear sunglasses for night driving or in fog.

·   Don’t look directly at the sun, even while wearing sunglasses.

·   Don’t work in dimly lit areas.

·   Don’t rub your eyes with dirty hands.

Sometimes you must accept a little discomfort, inconvenience or expense in order to protect your eyes, but the sacrifice is well worth it. If the unexpected happens, your protective eyewear could make the difference between keeping your sight and losing it.

Take Care of Your Hard Hat, So It Can Take Care of You

Of all the pieces of personal protective equipment you wear, your hard hat is probably one of the most important. In order for it to protect you, it has to be properly worn and maintained.

The following tips will help you use your hard hat appropriately and keep it in optimal condition:

·   Inspect your hard hat before each use. Your hard hat is made up of the shell and the suspension. Begin your shell inspection by looking for cracks, nicks, dents, gouges and any damage caused by impact, penetration or abrasions. If your hard hat is made of thermoplastic materials, you should check the shell for stiffness, brittleness, fading, dullness of color or a chalky appearance. If any of these conditions are present, or if the shell is damaged, replace it immediately.

Ultraviolet light can cause deterioration to the hat’s shell over time. If your work is predominantly in sunlight, replace your hard hat every two years. The same is true if you work in an environment that has a high exposure to temperature extremes or chemicals. Most hard hats have date codes on the underside brim of the cap so you can readily determine a hat’s age.

Inspecting the suspension system is just as important as inspecting the shell, because the suspension absorbs the shock of a blow to the top of the hard hat. Look for cracks or tears, frayed or cut straps, or lack of pliability. All keys should fit tightly and securely into their respective slots. Any suspension that shows signs of damage should be removed from service and replaced immediately.

·   Limit the use of stickers. Stickers won’t necessarily interfere with the hat’s performance, but you should limit their use so you are able to thoroughly inspect the shell for signs of damage.

·   Replace a hat that has been struck by a forcible blow. Any impact can reduce a hard hat’s effectiveness, so a hat that has suffered a blow should be replaced, even if it is relatively new or shows no visible damage. A hard hat that has been dropped more than eight feet requires replacement.

·   Never modify the shell or suspension. Do not drill ventilation holes in the shell. Avoid having your hard hat come into contact with electrical wires. Never use a suspension that is not intended to be worn with a particular shell or use a shell made by one manufacturer with a suspension made by another. Never carry or wear anything inside of your hard hat between the suspension and the shell.

·   Don’t wear your hard hat backwards unless the manufacturer says you can. Before wearing the hat backwards, you should have written verification from the manufacturer that your hard hat has been tested and found to comply with the requirements of the American National Standards Institute when worn with the bill turned to the rear. The manufacturer may specify that the suspension must be reversed in the helmet, so that the brow pad is against the forehead and the extended nape strap is at the base of the skull, leaving only the shell of the helmet positioned backward on the head.

Following these tips can help to ensure that your hard hat can protect you as it was intended to do.

Everyone Bears Responsibility for Accident Prevention

When it comes to accident prevention in the workplace, you are your brother’s keeper. You have a responsibility to make sure that the co-workers around you, or those who use the same tools, equipment or materials that you do, are not injured because of your negligence. Furthermore, to make the workplace as safe as possible for everyone, all workers need to keep their eyes open for any dangerous situations in their midst.

Keep the following in mind to make your workplace as safe as possible:

·   Warn a worker who is in a dangerous position. Sometimes inexperience can cause a worker to perform a task in a manner that may result in injury. If you see this happening, don’t just explain to your co-worker what he or she is doing wrong; demonstrate the right way to do it.

·   Call attention to a task if a worker seems distracted. Conversation and noise can present serious distractions. If a co-worker seems not to be paying attention to the task at hand, go over and try to gently re-focus his or her attention.

·   Set a good example. Always use tools and equipment in the intended manner. Never joke around when handling tools or equipment. Remember, younger co-workers can be influenced by the behavior they see in their older peers.

·   Keep machine guards in place. Machines usually have moving parts that may accidentally come into contact with a worker’s body. When this happens, the worker can be killed or maimed. Machine guards prevent contact with moving parts during the normal operation of the machine.

·   Report tool/equipment defects to your supervisor. Continuing to use a defective tool or piece of equipment instead of reporting it could result in possible injury to you or a co-worker.

·   Encourage co-workers to report every injury. Sometimes an injury that seems insignificant can escalate down the road. If an accident is not reported at the time it occurs, it may not be covered by insurance if it is reported at a later date.

·   Encourage co-workers to wear personal protective equipment (PPE). Your employer provides PPE so that you will be protected. Always wear it if it is necessary for the task being performed. Ask co-workers to wear it as well.

·   Ask questions if you are confused about what you have been asked to do. Never perform a task unless you are completely sure of the correct way to do it. Ask your supervisor to show you the proper method.

·   Take safety suggestions in the cooperative spirit in which they are made. Co-workers are responsible for each other’s safety. If a suggestion is made about the way in which you are performing a task, don’t respond with anger. Instead, thank the co-worker making the suggestion for caring enough about your personal safety to take the time to correct you.

When all workers look out for themselves and others, everyone’s safety is enhanced.

Good Housekeeping Is One of Your Job Responsibilities

Good housekeeping at work means keeping both the facility itself and your own workspace clean, neat, and orderly. The reason housekeeping should be a priority is because it is the first line of defense in any company’s accident prevention strategy.

If housekeeping is to be effective, it has to be ongoing, not an activity that’s performed before management inspects the premises. Failure to keep up with necessary housekeeping tasks can result in employees:

·   Tripping over loose objects on floors, stairs and platforms

·   Being struck by falling objects

·   Slipping on greasy, wet or dirty surfaces

·   Hitting against projecting, or poorly stacked items

·   Cutting, puncturing, or tearing the skin of hands or other parts of the body

To properly maintain the facility, materials, supplies and parts must be stored in their designated storage areas when not in use, tools and equipment must be arranged in an orderly manner and placed away from traffic areas, scraps or debris in the department must be removed on a daily basis, and stairways and platforms must be kept clear. Attention should also be paid to keeping the aisles and passageways clear. Never store or stack materials in aisles.

When you keep the facility clean, you lessen the chances of both employee and visitor accidents because you will have removed the things that cause slipping, tripping, and falling. You have also lessened the likelihood that people will be involved in “struck by,” “striking against,” and “caught-between” accidents.

If your work area is in disarray because of a project you are working on, or if you cannot immediately clean your workstation, make people aware of the danger by posting signs that alert them to the potential risk.

In addition to accident prevention, there are other benefits to maintaining good housekeeping: 

·   There is an easier flow of materials, which reduces handling and saves time.

·   Clutter-free and spill-free work areas expedite movement, again saving time.

·   There is a decrease in the number of fire hazards.

·   Exposures to hazardous substances are reduced.

·   There is a better control over tools and materials because you know where to find them.

·   Without obstacles in the way, it is easier to clean and maintain equipment.

·   The environment is more hygienic, which improves health.

·   There is a more effective use of space.

·   The likelihood of materials and equipment being damaged is reduced.

Preventing MRSA Infections on the Job

Americans have become increasingly aware of the “superbug” MRSA (methicillin-resistantstaphylococcus aureus) because of the number of outbreaks that have been reported among school children. However, most people don’t realize that adults are just as susceptible to getting a MRSA infection at work.

To avoid becoming infected, you need to understand what the disease is, and how to prevent it. MRSA is a type of “staph” infection. Staph is a bacterium commonly found on the skin or in the nose of healthy people; however, it can sometimes cause an infection. In fact, staph bacteria are among the most common causes of skin infections in the United States. When these infections are minor, they appear as pustules and boils, and can be easily treated without antibiotics. When the bacteria cause serious infections, such as surgical wound infections, bloodstream infections or pneumonia, they need to be treated with antibiotics.

MRSA isresistant to a type of antibiotic called methicillin and is often resistant to other antibiotics, too. According to the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH), between 25% and 30% of the population have staph bacteria present on their bodies, but it isn’t causing disease, and about 1% of the population carry MRSA that is not causing an infection.

The most common way a MRSA infection is transmitted is by direct skin-to-skin contact. It also can be contracted by coming into contact with items or surfaces that have been touched by someone carrying the infection. Although a MRSA infection can happen anywhere, these five conditions can facilitate its transmission:

1.   Overcrowding-working in close surroundings in which there are frequent incidents of rubbing against or touching co-workers.

2.   Direct contact-coming into frequent skin-to-skin contact with co-workers.

3.   Compromised skin-having an open cut or abrasion in which the bacteria can settle.

4.   Contaminated surfaces-commonly used surfaces such as a cafeteria table that may have been infected by someone with the disease.

5.   Lack of cleanliness-failure to frequently disinfect commonly used areas in a facility.

You may not be able to control how much contact you have with co-workers, but you can take steps to protect yourself. Here is what NIOSH recommends:

·      Cover your wound.  Keep wounds that are draining or have pus covered with clean, dry bandages. Pus from infected wounds can contain staph and MRSA, so keeping the infection covered also will help prevent the spread to others. Bandages or tape can be discarded with the regular trash.

·      Clean your hands. Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after changing a bandage or touching an infected wound.

·      Do not share personal items. Avoid sharing personal items such as uniforms, personal protective equipment, clothing, towels, washcloths or razors that may have had contact with an infected wound or bandage.

·      Clean work clothing properly. Wash soiled uniforms and work clothing with water and laundry detergent. Dry clothes in a hot dryer, rather than by air-drying, to help kill bacteria in the clothes.

·      Clean contaminated equipment and surfaces with detergent-based cleaners or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered disinfectants.  This is an effective way to remove MRSA from the environment. Because cleaners and disinfectants can be irritating and exposure has been associated with health problems such as asthma, it is important to read the instruction labels on all cleaners to make sure they are used safely and appropriately. The EPA provides a list of EPA-registered products effective against MRSA, which can be found by logging on to https://epa.gov/oppad001/chemregindex.htm.

Help bring MRSA under control in your workplace by following these precautions.

Your Hands Need Protection from Work Injuries Too

You probably aren’t aware of how complex a piece of equipment your hands are. There are a total of 27 bones in your hand and wrist. These bones are joined together by ligaments, which also hold the joints in place. Nerves carry messages from your brain to your hands and fingers to help them move. All of this intricate machinery is wrapped up in a layer of skin.

The skin provides a barrier against foreign objects, as well as heat and cold. The skin on the back of your hand is thin and elastic, but on the palm, it is thicker to provide traction, cushioning and insulation.

Just like any other delicate piece of equipment, your hands need to be safeguarded while you are working. The most common sources of injury stem from mechanical hazards from tools, equipment, machines, structures and vehicles such as:

·   Chains, gears, rollers, wheels and transmission belts

·   Spiked or jagged tools

·   Cutting, chopping and grinding mechanisms

·   Cutting tools such as knives and presses

·   Falling objects

You can make your hands less vulnerable to these risks by following these safety tips:

·   Work at a pace at which you feel comfortable – The number of hand injuries you will have is in direct proportion to how quickly you work.

·   Keep alert – Stay focused on what your hands are doing whenever you are using tools or machinery.

·   Use a push stick to feed a circular saw.

·   Handle the tools and equipment you work with properly – Never take shortcuts.

·   Use wrenches that properly fit the nuts and bolts you wish to tighten.

·   Use long magnetic poles for retrieving items from places that are too dangerous for hands to reach.

·   Don’t hold the workpiece in your hand while using a hand tool because the tool could slip and cause injury.

·   Never try to repair power tools or machinery without first checking that the power is shut off and the machine is locked out.

·   Wear the appropriate gloves when handling chemical substances.

·   Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water or use special cleansers, especially after direct contact with a chemical substance.

·   Don’t wipe your hands with chemically contaminated rags.

·   Don’t operate machinery if you are taking any medication unless your doctor tells you it is safe to do so. Some drugs can slow your reflexes, which makes your hands vulnerable to injury. 

Learn How to Protect Yourself from Machine Accidents

In 2002, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that 92,560 injuries, which resulted in lost time from work, were caused by machinery. The agency ranked the top injury causing machines according to the number of accidents that occurred during their use:

1.   Metal, woodworking and special materials machinery (19,269 injuries)

2.   Material handling machinery (16,183 injuries)

3.   Special process machinery (15,576 injuries)

4.   Heating, cooling and cleaning machinery (13,330 injuries)

5.   Unspecified machinery (6,148 injuries)

6.   Construction, logging and mining machinery (6,069 injuries)

The BLS also found that machinery was the chief source of fatal occupational injuries in 483 of the 5,915 fatalities during 2002.

If you use machinery as part of your employment, you need to know how to protect yourself from the hazards that machines pose. The following list of guidelines for correct machine use was compiled by Wake Forest University:

1.   Wear safety glasses, goggles or safety shields designed for the type of machine work being done.

2.   Be sure that all machines have effective and proper working guards.

3.   Replace guards immediately after any repairs.

4.   Do not attempt to oil, clean, adjust or repair any machine while it is running.

5.   Do not leave a machine while it is running. Someone else may not notice it is still running, and be injured.

6.   Do not try to stop the machine with your hands or body.

7.   Always see that work and cutting tools on any machine are clamped securely before starting.

8.   Get help when handling long or heavy pieces of material.

9.   When working with another person, only one should operate the machine or switches.

10.   Do not lean against the machine.

11.   Concentrate on the work and the machine at all times; it only takes a moment for an accident to occur.

12.   Do not talk to others while they are operating a machine.

13.   Be sure you have sufficient light to see clearly when doing any job.

14.   Wear short sleeves or roll sleeves up above the elbow.

15.    Don’t wear bracelets, rings, etc., when operating machines.

16.    Never use compressed air for cleaning machinery.

Keep in mind that although your company may be extremely diligent about guarding machinery, you must still exercise caution because there are some operations that cannot be completely guarded. You should also remember that even though machines are equipped with guards, it is still possible to get your hands and fingers in a machine’s danger zone.

Adhering to these guidelines and any additional ones that your company has in place should lessen the chances of a workplace machinery-related accident happening to your or your co-workers.

Practice Safety When You Travel to Work

You rely on your company to provide a safe environment while you are on the job. However, your company relies on you to act safely when you are traveling to and from work.

No matter how you travel, every one is vulnerable to the possibility of an accident. However, of all the means of travel, walking probably provides the most risk. That’s because pedestrians are vulnerable to every form of moving vehicle. The American College of Emergency Physicians reports that 68,000 pedestrians were injured in traffic crashes in 2004. On average, a pedestrian is injured every eight minutes in the United States. That’s why it is imperative that if you walk to work, you follow the American College of Emergency Physicians’ recommendations for pedestrian safety:

·   Use sidewalks.

·   Know and obey safety rules (e.g., if a “don’t walk” signal starts blinking when you’re halfway across an intersection, continue walking).

·   Cross only at intersections and crosswalks.

·   Look left, right and left again for traffic before stepping off the curb.

·   Be sure you are seen by oncoming traffic.

Of course, pedestrians aren’t the only travelers who are vulnerable when commuting to work. Drivers also face a number of risks because they travel during rush hours when traffic is at its peak. In fact, InjuryBoard.com says that your commute home from work may actually be the most dangerous time to drive. The site goes on to note that although 12 a.m. – 3 a.m. Saturday and Sunday mornings are considered the two most deadly times to drive during the week, the deadliest time period overall is actually from 3 p.m. – 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. More drivers are on the road in the afternoons, and these drivers are generally tired from working, distracted by the problems that occurred during the day, and in a hurry to pick up their children or get them to an activity or event. 

Even though afternoons pose a greater safety threat, all rush hour driving makes it necessary for you to practice extreme caution:

·   Leave early enough to get to work on time without having to speed.

·   Travel at a speed that is suited to the road conditions.

·   Obey traffic signs and signals.

·   Yield the right-of-way at intersections.

·   Don’t swerve from lane to lane.

·   Signal before you make a turn.

·   Stay in the right lane while driving so that cars can pass you on the left where you can see them.

Keep these tips in mind so that you can arrive at and return home from work safely, every day.

Knowledge Is Power When It Comes to Keeping Safe Around Power Lines

In an article titled Alarming Statistics: Reducing Common Injuries and Maintaining Safety Practices that appeared in the May 2007 issue of Electrical Contractor, author Darlene Bremer noted that exposure to electricity remains a major cause of death among construction workers. So much so that it accounts for an average of 143 construction worker deaths each year.

Many workers are oblivious to the potential electrical hazards in their work environment, which makes them extremely vulnerable to the danger of electrocution. Sometimes it is a matter of not being familiar with the environment, and not knowing the location of all the energized power sources from overhead and underground power lines.

However, this isn’t always the case. Many instances of electrocution result from workers failing to follow proper safety procedures when working around power lines. The most common cause of electrocutions is when workers using cranes, metal ladders, scaffolds, conveyors, front-end loaders, dump trucks, or other equipment or materials come into contact with an overhead power line. It is not uncommon for workers to die while performing what appears to be an activity that isn’t normally associated with accidents, such as unloading supplies from a truck, or moving ladders from the side of a structure. The problem arises because of poor planning or temporary inattention to surroundings, which causes contact with high voltage.

OSHA has established the following guidelines to help keep you safe when you have to work near power lines:

·   Keep a distance of 10 feet or more between you, your equipment and any power lines.

·   Survey the site for overhead power lines before you begin working.

·   Keep a minimum distance of 10 feet plus 1/2 inch for each 1,000 volts over 50,000 volts between power lines and any part of a crane if the energized power lines are 50,000 volts or more.

·   Request an observer to assist you where it is difficult to maintain the desired clearance by visible means.

·   Be sure that the observer’s only job is to help you maintain the safe clearance.

·   Treat overhead power lines as if they were energized whenever you are working near them.

·   Call the electric company to find out what voltage is on the lines if you are not sure.

·   Ask the electric company to either de-energize and ground the lines or install insulation while you are working near them.

·   Make sure ladders and tools are nonconductive. 

Improving Air Quality Protects Welders’ Health

Airborne particles pose significant potential health hazards for welders. That’s because there’s a co-relation between the chemical and physical properties of airborne particles and respiratory diseases. Protecting these workers from inhaling particles is key to protecting their health.

The greatest risk comes from particles that are between 1 and 100 microns in diameter, such as dust produced during industrial processes like welding and grinding. These particles are able to work their way through the nose and throat and penetrate the gas exchange region of the lungs where they settle, causing inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels.  Inhaling these particles over the long-term can lead to lung cancer.

Lung cancer begins with changes in the lungs that are characterized by the development of abnormal cells on the lining of the bronchi, the large air tubes that carry air to and from the lungs. These cells multiply with continued exposure and eventually become cancerous, and develop into tumors. Symptoms of lung cancer include chronic cough, hoarseness, chest pain, shortness of breath and numerous episodes of bronchitis and pneumonia.

Another less serious exposure-related illness that affects welders is metal fever. This is an acute allergic condition that causes headache, fever, chills, muscle aches, thirst, nausea, vomiting, chest soreness, gastrointestinal pain, and weakness. These symptoms usually last from 6-24 hours and complete recovery happens within 48 hours.

To prevent workers from contracting illnesses associated with airborne particles, it is imperative that the workplace offers adequate ventilation that removes contaminants generated during the welding process. The most effective way to accomplish this is through a combination of dilution ventilation and local exhaust ventilation techniques.

Dilution ventilation is used to decontaminate air in a whole building or room by blowing in large amounts of clean air and exhausting dirty air. This process dilutes the concentration of contaminants within the air to less dangerous levels. The most common methods of dilution ventilation include roof exhaust fans and wall fans.

One significant drawback of this method is that it allows the contaminants to enter the welder’s breathing zone before they are removed from the environment. If used exclusively, dilution ventilation may not be adequate to control exposure. For best results, dilution ventilation should be used in combination with local exhaust ventilation. This method captures contaminates at or very near the source and exhausts them outside.

Some welding equipment includes local exhaust ventilation, which removes the contaminates at the point of origin. Other local exhaust ventilation systems include a hood that can be placed as near as practical to the work being welded and provided with an airflow in the direction of the hood, or a fixed enclosure with a top and at least two sides that surround the welding work and provided with an airflow away from the enclosure.

Local exhaust ventilation prevent contaminates from entering the welder’s breathing zone. In addition to being discharged outside the building, local exhaust can be re-circulated through an air cleaner.

A Whipping Hose Is a Preventable Safety Hazard

Pressurized hoses are used on the jobsite everyday to run tools like paint sprayers and nail guns.  While the tools they power can make a worker’s job much easier, the hoses themselves can be dangerous if handled improperly.  The hoses derive power from the liquid or gas that moves inside them; however, that power also creates a reactive force.  If the force is strong enough, it can cause the hose to whip, possibly causing serious injury if it strikes a worker and even additonal hazards, like a chemical spill.   

The following tips can help you prevent hose whipping hazards:

  • Inspect hoses for torn outer jackets, damaged inner reinforcing, or soft spots before using them. Hoses with these types of damage should be removed from service.
  • Reduce the pressure in the hose to a lower level if possible. Setting pressure regulators to 30 psi or less can minimize the possibility of the hose whipping.
  • Avoid making sharp bends in the hose, which can damage the reinforcement.
  • Don’t jerk on a hose that has become snagged as this can cause ruptures. Find the object the hose is caught on, and release it there.
  • Restrain pressurized hoses that are unavoidably located near other employees with guards that are strong enough to keep the hoses in place if a leak or rupture occurs.
  • Use solid lines with tight fittings if possible instead of flexible hoses when working near other employees. Solid lines do not whip or leak as readily as flexible hoses, which can develop leaks from vibration, pressure cycles and aging.
  • Examine the connections on pressurized hoses frequently to prevent any accidental detachment of the line, which would result in uncontrollable whipping. Hose clamps with a restraining chain should be used to minimize the whipping effect if hose connections should accidentally become loose.
  • Pin the two sides of the hose’s twist type fitting together using the lugs provided. Be sure these fittings are fully secured.
  • Use the safety device at the air supply to reduce the pressure in the event of a hose failure. This device is standard on all hoses that are ½ inch in diameter or larger. If the hose you’re using doesn’t have this device, lash the two ends of the hose together to restrict whipping.
  • Never connect or disconnect pressurized hoses, always depressurize first.
  • Don’t stop the airflow in a hose by bending or crimping with pliers as this could cause major hose damage.
  • Stand clear of potential rupture points when conducting hose pressure tests. During testing, the pressure should be increased gradually with a brief pause between each increase. Instruments for reading pressures should be arranged so they are clearly visible at all times.

Your Brain Is Your Best Tool When It Comes to On-The-Job Safety

Everyone has heard the old adage ”Experience is the best teacher.” While it is true that you remember what you learned from an experience, especially a bad one, you may not like the other consequences that are part of the learning process.

This is especially true when it comes to on-the-job safety. Learning from a bad experience usually involves injury, and sometimes death. This shouldn’t have to be the case. But unfortunately, not exercising proper caution, and not paying careful attention can lead to these outcomes.

You probably hear a supervisor tell you or your co-workers, “Be careful,” or “Pay attention” any number of times during the day. The next time you hear those words, stop a minute and think of all the reasons you should be careful. Then follow that supervisor’s advice, so you can avoid having an accident that may be the last thing you ever learn.

You may be thinking, ‘I’m experienced, I don’t have accidents.” If you are, you’re setting yourself up for a bad learning experience. Accidents happen when you least expect them, and no worker, no matter how experienced, has any special immunity from having an accident. That’s why it is so important to follow safe work procedures. They are designed to help you avoid the causes of possible injury while getting the job done correctly. That’s also the reason your employer provides you with personal protective equipment (PPE), because using it prevents or minimizes the probability you will be injured.

Always remember your brain is your best defense against injury. Let it remind you to:

  • Follow proper work procedures at all times. Never take short cuts, even if you think that they will save time. All of the time you save will be lost if your short cuts cause you to be injured.
  • Concentrate on the task at hand. That means giving it your full attention until it is completed. Avoid any kind of distraction like talking, or joking around with co-workers because they can result in your being seriously hurt.
  • Use PPE whenever appropriate. Be sure it fits correctly, and that you wear it in the manner it was intended.

Understanding the Proper Usage and Limitations of Cartridge-Type Respirators

A half-mask cartridge-type respirator is the most common type used for protection against solvent vapors.  Many workers believe their respirator is working properly, when in reality it may not be.  You could have the wrong kind of respirator for the task at hand, wrong kind of filter cartridges, leakage and fit problems, or worn-out filter cartridges. Also, keep in mind that filter cartridge respirators just don’t protect you from the vapors produced by all chemicals.

Try to Use Ventilation Where Possible Instead of Relying on Respirators

Ideally your workplace should make full use of fans and local exhaust ventilation to make the air safe, if possible. Make full use of the ventilation you have. Also, never enter a confined space that has not been tested for oxygen content with a cartridge respirator.  Oxygen content must be at least 19.5% to use these types of respirators.

Use the Right Kind of Respirator

Dust masks, surgical masks, and handkerchiefs do NOT protect at all against solvent vapors. Don’t automatically choose an organic vapor (“OV”) filter cartridge respirator. A respirator must be right for the kinds of solvents you use, the amount of vapor in the air, and your work situation.

Make Sure Your Respirator Fits Properly

Any respirator will leak between the mask and face, unless it is fitted right. You must be individually “fit tested” by a trained person when you receive your respirator. There are various mask sizes and shapes. Masks can be “full face” (over the eyes, nose and mouth) or “half face” (nose and mouth only). Facial hair under the sealing edge allows vapor to leak into the mask.

Before Using Your Respirator:

· Look it over. Before you put it on, check it for cracks, damage, or loose parts.

· Check the fit. After you put it on, check the fit yourself. For respirators with masks that seal to the face, do “positive pressure” and “negative pressure” fit tests. These tests are done with the respirator on; block the valves, then exhale and inhale, checking for leaks.

· Clean it up. After use, clean the respirator, if necessary, using soap and water.

· Protect it. Store it in a sealed plastic bag to protect it from dirt and vapors. Protect it from crushing which could deform the shape of the facemask.

Do Not Use Filter Cartridge Respirators with All Solvents

Solvents with poor odor warning ability, such as Freon, carbon tetrachloride and methylene chloride, are not safe to use with filter respirators.You need an odor to warn you at the end of cartridge life or if the respirator leaks.  You should know both the type and concentrations of contaminants in the air of your workplace.

Replace Cartridge Filters Often

Filters may last for a few minutes or a few days of use, depending on the situation. Old filters let vapors leak through. Exit your work area and replace the filters immediately whenever you smell leakage into the mask; you should never be able to smell the chemicals at all when you’re wearing the respirator.

Cartridge-type respirators are safe to use provided you understand their limitations and know how to use them properly.

Indoor Air Quality: It’s Hard to Believe What We Breathe

Since the early 1970’s and the development of buildings that were sealed tight to save energy costs, indoor air quality has become an important concern.  The absence of fresh air and the regurgitation of stale air throughout massive office complexes have generated millions of headaches and more serious concerns.

Poor air quality doesn’t just come from the lack of fresh air.  There are many volatile organic compounds like formaldehyde in constant use in these buildings.  The major sources of formaldehyde are likely to be particleboard, fiberboard, and plywood in furniture and paneling in addition to carpeting and glues.

Other dangerous chemical compounds are released from everyday office items like furniture, paint, adhesives, solvents, upholstery, draperies, carpeting, spray cans, clothing, construction materials, cleaning compounds, deodorizers, copy machine toners, felt-tip markers and pens, and correction fluids.

Microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, molds and fungi are present in the air almost everywhere and may also cause office air pollution.  Fungi and bacteria find nourishment in inadequately maintained humidification and air-circulation systems, and in dirty washrooms.  In 16 major studies, at least 281 cases of illness were traced to humidifier systems, circulation vacuum pumps, blowers, ventilation and duct work, and air filters.

Another known cause of office pollution is asbestos and asbestos products that number in the thousands.  Office buildings are likely to have them in ceiling and floor tiles, and acoustic and thermo insulation.  A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study of ten cities found that almost twenty percent of office buildings contained asbestos in an easily crumbled, more dangerous state.

Unless you work in a sterile office environment with no carpets, drapes or furniture, there is no avoiding a risk to your breathing system.  But there are at least some steps that you can undertake to make your building and workplace safer.

  1. Eliminate Tobacco:  A firm no-smoking policy is the best way to protect the health of all employees.  If that is not currently feasible, smoking should be allowed only in a well-ventilated area reserved exclusively for that purpose, where no non-smoker is required to enter or pass through.

2.      Provide Adequate Ventilation:  Guidelines for office buildings set by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers require circulation of a minimum of 140 liters of outside air per minute per person.  Relative humidity should be kept between thirty and sixty percent.

3.      Practice Regular Maintenance:  Clean and disinfect ventilating, heating, or cooling devices and systems, including humidifiers and dehumidifiers, air filters and air circulation pumps and blowers.

For the health of all of employees, remember to pay heed to indoor air quality.   We are what we breathe.

Driving in Construction Zones – Follow the Signs to Safety

Each year hundreds of American construction workers are killed in traffic accidents while they are on the job.  So many have been killed that a special work zone safety awareness week has been created.  A mobile memorial containing the names of people killed in construction work zones was unveiled in Washington, D.C. in April 2002 and every year since has been on display in various states during the awareness week.

However, it is not just construction workers who have been maimed or killed.  In 2002, 1,181 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in work zones and more than 52,000 people were injured.  According to transportation safety officials, four out of five work zone fatalities are drivers and passengers.

The good news is that after years of steadily increasing numbers of accidents and fatalities in construction zones, public awareness is increasing and the numbers are beginning to drop.  In 2003, for the first time in more than five years, the number of fatalities decreased from the previous year to 1,082 deaths.

If you want to avoid becoming a construction zone statistic here are a few tips.  First of all obey all signs, especially the ones advising you to slow down.  Always stay within the posted speed limits.  Always follow the flag person’s direction.  They are your guides to help you navigate safely through the construction zone. 

Secondly, stay alert and watch for moving workers and equipment. Do not tailgate the car in front of you or try to pass a slower moving vehicle.  Ensure that there is a safe distance between your vehicle, and everything else.  Be prepared to stop at any moment and with little notice.

Thirdly, take your time.   If you are traveling through a construction work zone, plan ahead, you may be a little delayed.  But if it’s unexpected, then just relax and go with the flow.

Finally, pay attention.  Now may not be the best time to make phone calls or eat lunch.  You will need all your faculties to watch the road conditions for mud, gravel, rough surfaces, potholes or craters.  Watch out for merging traffic, especially when traffic is reducing to fewer lanes.  When taking detours through residential areas, be very cautious and watch out for children.

If you follow these easy tips and all signs and directions, you should be able to drive safely through any construction zone. Take your time and arrive alive.

Protect Yourself Against the Hazards of Welding

Since hazardous conditions like high heat and toxic fumes are central to welding, it is no surprise that without strict safety procedures, injury, short- or long-term illness and potentially even death could occur when welding.  Though there are more than 80 different types of welding processes, each with its own set of concerns, many safety precautions are common. 

The central elements of welding make it dangerous in many different ways.  The welding “smoke” often contains extremely toxic substances such as arsenic, silica, carbon monoxide, lead, chromium and ozone which can produce acute and chronic conditions to just about any part of the body depending on which substance is present.  Conditions associated with welding are asthma, emphysema, lung cancer, skin diseases, hearing loss, chronic gastrointestinal problems and reproductive risks.  Some components of welding fume, for example cadmium, can be fatal in a short amount of time.

Furthermore, the intense heat from welding and sparks can cause burns, eye injuries and heat stroke.  The intense light can cause eye damage and increased skin cancer risk, not just to the welder, but to co-workers if it reflects off surrounding materials.  Excessive noise exposure can permanently damage a welder’s hearing.  Welders also have a high rate of musculoskeletal complaints including back injuries, shoulder pain, tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. 

OSHA standards cover many aspects of welding, including welding safety and safety training, welding in confined spaces, ventilation, fire and electrical safety and protective equipment.  Welders should receive extensive training on the safe use of equipment, safe work practices and emergency procedures, and insist on safe working conditions before they weld.

Before beginning a welding job, the hazards for that particular environment need to be identified since risks vary based on the type of welding, materials to be welded and environmental conditions.  Make sure you know what you are welding before you start.  OSHA requires that employers keep material safety data sheets (MSDSs) to identify the hazardous materials used in welding, and the fumes that may be generated.  Only after identifying the hazard can appropriate safety controls be implemented.

Some general precautions to take include:

·  Keep areas clear of equipment, cables and hoses and use safety lines or rails to prevent slips and falls;

· To prevent fires, only weld in areas that are free of combustible materials;

· Be aware of the symptoms of heat stroke (fatigue, dizziness, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain).  Protect against it through appropriate ventilation, shielding, rest breaks and frequent drinks;

· Wear hearing protection in excessively noisy environments.  OSHA requires employers to test noise levels and, in many instances, provide free hearing protection and annual hearing tests;

· Prevent musculoskeletal injury through proper lifting, changing positions, working at a comfortable height and minimizing vibration;

· Prevent electrical shock by wearing dry gloves and rubber-soled shoes, using an insulating layer on surfaces that can conduct electricity and by grounding the piece being welded and the frame of all electrically powered machines;

· Guard all machines with moving parts to prevent clothing, hair or fingers from getting caught;

· Always wear personal protective equipment including fire-resistant gloves, high-top hard-toed shoes, leather apron, face shields, flame-retardant coveralls, safety glasses and helmets;

· Use shielding to protect other people in the work area from the light of the welding arc, heat and hot spatter;

· Maintain proper local exhaust ventilation and general ventilation;

· Store work clothes separately from street clothes since and have them laundered by the employer since they may be contaminated with highly toxic materials; and

· Receive yearly medical exams.

Because dangerous levels of toxic fumes can build quickly in a confined space, all workers who enter hazardous areas, either on a regular basis or in an emergency situation, should be trained on use of safety equipment, rescue procedures, self-contained breathing apparatus and proper methods of entering and exiting a confined space.  Additional special safety precautions are also necessary for various other specialized welding including high-pressure gas welding, laser welding and electronic beam welding.

Know How to Manage a Chemical Spill to Limit Injury and Exposure

No one plans on a chemical spill but because accidents can occur, the time to figure out how to manage a chemical spill isn’t after a spill happens but before.  Because different chemicals can have different harmful effects and must be handled in a unique way, contingency planning is the best way to minimize potential problems.

It goes without saying that our work around hazardous substances should always be designed to minimize the risk of their accidental release.  Prior to working in a specific environment around specific chemicals, you should make sure you understand the physical, chemical and toxicological properties of the potentially hazardous substances and the appropriate emergency procedures including:

·  How to report the emergency involved (ie. chemical spill, fire and/or injury)

·  The location and use of emergency first aid equipment

·  The location and use of spill control equipment and fire extinguishers

·  Contact information for those responsible for the work site

Handling a spill depends greatly on the scope of the chemical release, other hazardous conditions present and the type of chemical.  Always adhere to the specifics of the safety program.  Some general safety guidelines for small spills that are not immediately dangerous to the environment or individual’s health include:

·  Notifying other personnel in the area about the spill and any appropriate evacuation needs;

·  Attending to any individuals who have been injured or potentially exposed;

·  Taking appropriate measures, without the risk of injury or contamination, to confine the spill; and

·  Cleaning up and disposing of the spill contents using appropriate procedure.

Remember that more widespread or dangerous spills or conditions require a different approach including:

·  Notifying other personnel about the spill and to evacuate the area;

·  Immediately attempting to remove or protect victims in a manner that does not risk additional injury or contamination.  Request help if necessary; 

·  Locating to a safe area and calling 911 to report the emergency; and

·  For dangers that extend beyond the immediate environment, activating any fire or safety alarms, evacuating the wider vicinity and securing any entrances into the area.

If hazardous or regulated materials are unintentionally released to the environment, special regulatory reporting may be required.  Be sure to note as best you can the chemicals involved, the quantities released and the time of the incident so it can be reported accurately to the appropriate environmental agencies. 

While chemical spills are not intended, by taking safety measures, their scope and impact can often be limited.

Perform Lockout/Tagout Safety Measures While Servicing Machinery

As one of approximately three million workers who service and maintain equipment, you need to know how to prevent the serious risks of unexpected machinery startup or the release of hazardous energy.  While the risks are significant, by following OSHA’s lockout/tagout safety standards, an estimated 50,000 injuries can be prevented each year. 

Hazardous energy comes in multiple forms which include; the kinetic or mechanical energy of moving parts, potential energy stored in pressure vessels, gas tanks, hydraulic or pneumatic systems, electrical energy from generated electrical power, static sources or electrical storage devices such as batteries, high or low temperature thermal energy from mechanical work, radiation, a chemical reaction and electrical resistance.

While performing installation, maintenance, service or repair work near or related to hazardous energy sources these factors can lead to a dangerous situation and, are preventable:

–        The failure to completely de-energize, isolate, block, and/or dissipate the hazardous energy source,

–        Failure to lockout and tagout energy control devices and isolation points after the hazardous energy source has been de-energized, and

–        Failure to verify that the hazardous energy source was de-energized before beginning work.

Our OSHA-compliant hazardous energy control program helps to promote a safe working environment for employees.  The central goal of the program is to help you know how to identify at-risk tasks and conduct appropriate methods for controlling hazardous energy.

Our safety program is very comprehensive and includes the following general safety measures.  Safe work practices must begin before work commences and be applied at every step.  All sources of hazardous energy must be identified, labeled and then de-energized and dissipated, and all energy-isolating devices must undergo lockout and tagout to prevent startup and blocking.  We have developed the specific method of energy control based on the form of energy involved.  Workers must verify, using appropriate testing equipment, that all energy sources are de-energized before work begins. 

After work is complete, a designated individual must inspect the completed work to verify it was performed correctly using the correct replacement parts and that all personnel are clear of danger points before re-energizing the system.  Re-energized equipment should be closely monitored for several operating cycles.  The lockout/tagout program requires individually assigned locks and keys to secure the energy control devices.  Locks and tags must be removed only after workers have been cleared from the danger points and only by the workers who installed them.

Hazardous energy is a powerful force, however when diligently following our lockout/tagout safety program a safe working environment is created for all employees.

Buckle Up- It’s the Law

Many people invent reasons not to wear their seat belt.  Some just don’t bother and others think – “nothing will happen to me.” The statistics show that this statement is definitely untrue. From 1992 through 2001, roadway crashes were the leading cause of occupational fatalities in the U.S., accounting for 13,337 civilian worker deaths (22% of all injury-related deaths), an average of 4 deaths each day.  Between 1997 and 2002, 28% of fatally injured workers were wearing a seat belt; 56% were unbelted or had no seat belt available. Belt use was unknown for the remaining 16%.

Seat belts are effective in preventing fatalities, 50% more effective in preventing moderate to critical injuries, and 10% more effective in preventing minor injuries, according to the National Highway Traffic Administration.  What is most surprising is that by 1992 over 40 states had enacted seat belt use laws and still only 55% of the people traveling in cars were wearing them.

In addition to seat belts we are even more fortunate in that cars are now equipped with supplemental restraint systems (SRS), more commonly known as air bags.  What is not commonly known is that the air bag will only fully protect the passenger if they are wearing their seat belt.  This is another good reason to buckle up.  Insist all passengers in your car do the same and make every trip a safe one.

Occupational fatality data
*Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), 1992-2001 (special research file prepared for NIOSH by the Bureau of Labor Statistics; excludes New York City).

†Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), 1997-2002; National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) (public-use microdata files).

Start Off on the Right Foot – Choosing the Correct Slip-Resistant Shoe

In 1997 more than 180,000 foot-related injuries occurred in the workplace according to the National Safety Council.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), three out of four footwear injuries in the workplace are the result of employee non-compliance. Choosing the right type of slip resistant shoe for your workplace environment and wearing them everyday is essential for your safety.

Transitions in height, and unexpected changes such as transitions from tile to carpet can be factors that contribute to slips and falls.  Rough floor surfaces offer more slip-resistant characteristics by offering sharp peaks that contact the sole material of the shoe, but this can also contribute to the wear and tear of the shoe causing it to be replaced more often.   Some jobs present more than one hazard to be protected against such as slip resistance and puncture protection.  To help meet this need manufacturers are providing shoes that cover more than one aspect of the safety footwear market.

Slip-resistant shoes should have the following characteristics:

·        The sole should have a raised tread pattern that extends over the whole area of the shoe.  The shape of the tread creates a tunnel through which liquid is dispersed.  A circle grip outsole is the best choice with the rubber hitting the flow and water dispersing rapidly every time a step is taken on a wet or oily surface.

·        There should be about three millimeters between the sole of the shoe and the bottom of the tread.  The tread will be reduced, over time, through wear.  It is important to monitor this and replace your shoes when necessary.

·        For added traction look for shoes that are designed with snipes or small cuts that divide the tread shape into three or four moveable parts.  These are also great indicators of wear and will assist you in determining when to replace your shoes.

·        There should be at least two millimeters of space between the tread pattern for maximum safety.  If the treads are located too close together they could generate a hydroplaning effect on a wet surface.  There must be enough space for liquid to be channeled through to the outer edges of the outsole.

For comfort it is a good idea to choose a shoe with extra support in the heel of the insole.  As an added bonus today’s shoe manufacturers produce occupational footwear that is stylish enough to be worn in everyday life.

Electrical Insulating Gloves – Give Your Employees a Hand

Injuries caused by electrical shock are one of the most severe that workers can experience on the job.  According to the National Safety Council more than 1000 employees are killed and 30,000 injured each year from electrical shock.  Many of these injuries involve the hands since they are the most common source of contact with an electrical current.    Electrical current travels through the body causing damage to internal organs and possibly resulting in cardiac arrest.  Such injuries from electrical shock can prove fatal. The best line of protection is to use electrical insulating gloves.

It is important to know that electrical shock can result from contact with low voltage (under 600 volts) as well as high voltage lines (over 600 volts).  The effects of this exposure depends on the amount of current (which is measured in milliamps or amps) flowing through the body, the amount of time it is in the body and the path of the current.  Exposure to 100 milliamps flowing through the body for only 2 seconds can cause death by electrocution.  This is not much current when you consider a hand-held electric drill draws 30 times that amount. OSHA requires that workers in high and low voltage applications wear electrical insulating gloves and that all insulating gloves be electrically tested every six months.  There are several labs in the United States that perform this required testing.

Rubber electrical insulating gloves are rated for their particular application.  Workers should be trained to select gloves for the amount of protection needed against the circuits they are working with.  For example, a Class 1 glove can be used for up to 7,500 volts AC, a Class 2 up to 17,000 volts AC, etc.  It is also important to understand and recognize regulatory standards when it pertains to electrical safety awareness.  These standards are easily accessed on OSHA’s website, www.osha.gov.

Finally, it is imperative that employers have in place an electrical safety program to ensure that all employees are aware of the potential electrical hazards in their locality.  Both qualified and unqualified workers should be trained in avoiding the dangers of working on or near exposed and energized equipment.

Are You Getting the Word Out with Your Hazard Communication Program?

OSHA first established the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) on November 25, 1983; and with its complexity, it is often one of the most misunderstood of the agency’s standards and the one most frequently cited for violations. The core concept for the rule is “that employees have both a need and a right to know the hazards and identities of the chemicals they are exposed to when working. They also need to know what protective measures are available to prevent adverse effects from occurring.”

The HCS requires that both the physical and health hazards be communicated for all hazardous chemicals. Since the majority of chemicals used in the workplace have some hazardous consequences, they will be included in this mandate. 

The communication paradigm begins with chemical manufacturers and importers. They are required to evaluate the hazard potential of the chemicals they produce or import. This information becomes the basis for labels they prepare for containers, and for the more detailed specification sheets called Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). Chemical manufacturers, importers, and distributors of hazardous chemicals are obliged to provide the labels and material safety data sheets to the purchasers of these chemicals.

Any workplace in which employees are exposed to hazardous chemicals must have a written plan, which describes how the communication standard is being carried out. OSHA is not looking for something that is lengthy and convoluted.  An inspector wants to see a realistic system for meeting the requirements for labeling, accessibility of material safety data sheets, and employee training.  

To comply with the labeling provision of the rule, employers can make use of the labels provided by their suppliers. The information specified on the label must include the name of the material and any possible physical or health hazards associated with its use. Labels must be easy to read, and prominently displayed.  OSHA doesn’t mandate any specific requirements in terms of size, color or text.

If an employer transfers the hazardous chemical from a labeled container to another container, the employer is required to label the second container unless it is subject to the portable container exemption. To be considered portable, the container must be used for the immediate transfer of hazardous chemicals from labeled containers, and the employee who performs the transfer will be the only one to use it.

The purpose of the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) is to provide detailed information about a chemical’s potential hazardous effects, its physical and chemical characteristics, and recommendations for protecting oneself when using it. OSHA doesn’t specify a format for the MSDS.

All MSDSs must be easily accessible to employees during their shifts. OSHA does not mandate the methodology for accomplishing this. Any methodology is acceptable as long as it meets the principal standard that employees can get the information when they need it.

If you plan to conduct your own hazard communication training, you may want to investigate Training Requirements in OSHA Standards and Training Guidelines, which was developed by OSHA’s Training Institute. You can get a copy from the Superintendent of Documents, Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954.

After designing your hazard communication strategy, give it the acid test for compliance by seeing if it meets the following OSHA checklist:

• Obtain a copy of the rule

• Read and understand the requirements

• Assign responsibility for tasks to a specific employee

• Prepare an inventory of chemicals

• Ensure that containers are labeled

• Obtain an MSDS for each chemical

• Prepare a written program

• Make MSDSs available to workers

• Conduct training

• Establish procedures to maintain current program

• Establish procedures to evaluate effectiveness

Preventing Fatalities from Work-Related Road Crashes

One of the least known facts about work-related fatalities and injuries is that motor vehicle crashes are one of the leading causes of death and injury in the workplace. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) observes that motor vehicle crashes kill more than 2,100 people while they are working and injure another 353,000. The average job-related motor vehicle crash costs an employer $16,500. 

Research conducted by The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2003 discovered that crashes involving vehicles on public roadways were the leading cause of work-related fatalities. Crashes accounted for almost a quarter of all fatal work-related injuries.

Preventing employee roadway fatalities presents some unique challenges. The roadway is not a closed environment where conditions can be easily monitored. If employers want to prevent work-related roadway crashes, they must combine traffic safety principles and safety management practices. Employers can promote safe driving by providing workers with safety information and by establishing and enforcing driver safety policies.

It is fundamental to start by assigning a key member of the management team the responsibility of enforcing a comprehensive driver safety policy. An important part of that policy is enforcing the mandatory use of seat belts.

Workers shouldn’t drive irregular hours or for an excessive amount of time after their normal working hours. Workers should be instructed to never conduct business on a cell phone while they are driving. Insist that employees obey speed limits and follow applicable driving regulations.

Be vigilant in monitoring that workers assigned to drive on the job not only have a valid driver’s license, but also one that is appropriate for the type of vehicle driven. Check the driving records of prospective hires, and continue to perform periodic rechecks after they are employed. Maintain accurate records of each worker’s driving performance.

Employee education plays a vital role in any roadway crash prevention program. Educate workers on how to recognize driver fatigue and what strategies they can use to combat it. They should also be taught how to avoid in-vehicle distractions. Provide additional training to workers operating specialized motor vehicles or equipment in the correct procedures of operation. Place emphasis on the need for workers to follow safe driving practices both on and off the job.

It is also important that your vehicles offer the highest possible levels of occupant protection.  Be sure that part of your prevention program also involves implementing a structured vehicle maintenance program.

Reducing Your Employees’ Exposure to Asphalt Fumes

Roofers are a pretty common sight, especially when the weather is mild. What we may not realize, however, are the health risks that are associated with working with hot asphalt. Roofers exposed to asphalt fumes may experience headaches, eye, nose, throat, and skin irritation, nausea, fatigue and drowsiness. These risks seem to be mild and transient.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. According to some studies, roofers may also have an increased risk of lung cancer; although there have been no definitive conclusions as of yet. If you add the possibility of looming cancer to the other less fatal irritation effects associated with hot asphalt work, it makes sense for both employers and employees to take steps to control exposure.

Before starting work, the contractor needs to ensure that workers have been properly trained in the hazards of applying hot asphalt and acceptable work practices. The contractor should also check that employees are using the appropriate personal protective equipment to reduce exposures to asphalt fumes.

Prior planning before work begins will help reduce workers’ asphalt fume exposure. Determine if it is possible to use a tanker to supply asphalt to the kettle or to the rooftop directly. If this is not possible, and a kettle will be used, place it where workers will be least exposed to the fumes. Keep the kettle away from air intakes, doors, and windows. Try to use roofing equipment and accessories that have lids to reduce exposure to fumes.

If possible, use an insulated kettle that is the right size for the job. It should have temperature controls and the right pumping capacity for its size. Inspect it to be sure that it is in good operating condition. Insulate the pipeline that delivers the hot asphalt to the roof.

Maintaining proper asphalt temperature is another way to reduce exposure to asphalt fumes. The equiviscous or application temperature (EVT), and the flash point of the asphalt can be found on the keg package or bill of lading. Once you have determined these guidelines, set the kettle temperature at the EVT plus 50°F. Periodically measure the asphalt temperature in the mop bucket. Make any adjustments to the kettle to maintain proper temperature. The appropriate temperature is the EVT plus or minus 25°F. The kettle temperature must also always be at least 25°F below the flash point to avoid fires and explosions. Use a hand-held or infrared thermometer to get an accurate reading.

Workers need to be trained to be continually mindful of safety when working with hot asphalt. They should place the kettle on firm, level ground to avoid spilling or tipping. They also need to be trained to put up warning tape, traffic cones, or signs around the kettle to keep others at a safe distance. They should reduce the number of times the lid is opened by filling the kettle to capacity when reloading. Workers should also check the temperature, stir, and skim when they reload. All workers must have, and know how to operate, a fully charged ABC-type fire extinguisher near the kettle.

During the actual application, workers should:

  • Keep lids closed on rooftop equipment and accessories used to transport and apply hot asphalt.
  • Stay out of the fume cloud whenever possible.
  • Use buckets with half lids.
  • Fill buckets only three-fourths full.
  • Carry buckets on the down slope of the roof.
  • Twist mops instead of pulling to unstick them from buckets.
  • Twist buckets instead of pulling to unstick them from the roof.
  • Minimize the time spent on their knees working with hot asphalt since exposures may be higher when closer to the fumes.
  • Use long-handled tools whenever possible.

Establishing Gun-Free Workplaces: What Are Employers’ Rights

In an average week in U.S. workplaces, one employee is killed and at least 25 are seriously injured in violent assaults by current or former co-workers, according to Department of Labor data.  Most of those attacks involve guns.  To cut down on the risk of gun violence in workplaces, many employers have instituted policies banning anyone-whether employee or visitor-from carrying a concealed weapon on the property or premises.  However, in some instances such rules may not be enforceable.  

Less than a generation ago, most states issued few permits for individuals to carry concealed guns.  Today, the situation is quite different.  In 34 states there are now laws that require officials to issue a concealed carry permit (CCP) to anyone who meets certain objective licensing criteria.  Most of these laws mandate issuance of a CCP to any adult who has not been convicted of a felony; has no history of drug or alcohol abuse and/or mental illness; has not committed any violent misdemeanor within the last three to five years; and, in most states, has completed a firearms training course. 

The rationale for these laws is that Americans have the right, under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to bear arms to defend themselves. That right is meaningless, according to CCP supporters, if a person is prevented from having a gun should self-defense be needed.  Many CCP supporters believe this right should extend to workplaces, employers’ premises, and private property in general.

While people in most states now have the right to carry concealed guns, employers have a conflicting desire to control activities by employees or the public on the company’s private property. 

As of January 2005, employers in all states with CCP laws are permitted to maintain rules or policies that prohibit employees from carrying concealed weapons on the job.

Rules prohibiting guns in the workplace have been upheld by the courts, but there has been controversy whether the rules prohibit possession of guns in the employer’s parking lot.  In a highly publicized case several years ago, America Online terminated three employees who were recorded by a security camera transferring guns from their cars which were parked in the company’s parking lot at its call center in Ogden, Utah.  The employees were off work and planned to go target shooting.  AOL fired them for violating a violence prevention policy that banned guns.

The fired workers sued, saying AOL’s policy violated their right to bear arms.  But the Utah Supreme Court in July 2004 sided with AOL and said employers have the right to set policies banning guns in the workplace and that the right extends to the employer’s parking lot.

In some states, there has been pressure on legislatures to make laws allowing employees with CCP’s to keep their weapons in their vehicles while they’re at work. 

Banning guns on private property carried by non-employees, that is, by visitors, clients, customers, etc., can be quite problematic in states with strong concealed carry laws.  Employers’ right to prohibit employees from carrying concealed guns at work is based on the employers’ authority to manage the workplace.  But with people who are not employees, the employer can’t override the laws, which in most states permit people with CCP’s to be armed anywhere, except where concealed guns are specifically excluded by statute. 

Whatever rules one makes about concealed weapons may bring controversy, since there are people who feel strongly on both sides of this issue.

Scaffolding Safety


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics falls remain the number one killer of workers in the construction industry and the number two killer of workers in private industry. One of the most likely ways to prove those statistics true is to look at the number of falls from scaffolding. This problem was so prevalent for such a long time, that it prompted OSHA to revise their standards on scaffold safety in the late 1980s.

The standard that OSHA devised has been periodically updated; but it still contains several key provisions:

  • Fall protection or fall arrest systems-Each employee more than 10 feet above a lower level must be protected from falls by guardrails or a fall arrest system. However, employees on single-point and two-point adjustable suspension scaffolds must have both.
  • Guardrail height-The height of the toprail for scaffolds manufactured and placed in service after January 1, 2000 must be between 38 inches and 45 inches.
  • Crossbracing-When the crosspoint of crossbracing is used as a toprail, it must be between 38 inches and 48 inches above the work platform.
  • Midrails- Midrails must be installed approximately halfway between the toprail and the platform surface. When a crosspoint of crossbracing is used as a midrail, it must be between 20 inches and 30 inches above the work platform.
  • Footings-Support scaffold footings must be level and capable of supporting the loaded scaffold. The legs, poles, frames, and uprights must be placed on base plates and mudsills.
  • Platforms-Supported scaffold platforms must be fully planked or decked.
  • Guying ties, and braces-Supported scaffolds with a height-to-base of more than 4:1 have to be restrained from tipping by guying, tying or bracing.
  • Capacity-Scaffolds and scaffold components must support at least 4 times the maximum intended load. Suspension scaffold rigging must support at least 6 times the intended load.

In addition to complying with OSHA requirements for the design and construction of scaffolds, employers need to follow other scaffolding safety practices. They must ensure that scaffold suspension ropes and body belt or harness system droplines are shielded from heat-producing processes such as welding, hot acids or other corrosive substances, or cut by sharp edges or abrasions. Ropes should be made from material that is not affected by heat or by acids or other corrosives.

All scaffolds and scaffold components should be inspected before each use to ensure that structurally sound portions of buildings or structures are used to anchor droplines for body belt, harness systems, and tiebacks for suspension scaffold support devices. Droplines and tiebacks should be secured to separate anchor points.

Employees should be provided with appropriate fall protection systems and understand how to use them correctly. Generally, workers should be protected by a Type I guardrail system or a combination of body belt or harness system with a Type II guardrail system. The Type I guardrail systems are capable of providing the necessary fall protection without the use of body belts. Where the Type II guardrail systems accentuate the scaffold edge, restrain movement, provide handholds, and prevent wrong moves, they still must be supplemented by body belt or harness systems to provide the necessary fall protection.

The requirements differ when single-point and two-point adjustable suspension scaffolds are used. Workers must be protected by both a body belt or harness system and a Type I or Type II guardrail system. If boatswain chairs, catenary scaffolds or float scaffolds are used, workers only have to be protected by a body belt or harness system.

Using Vacuum Sanding Systems to Decrease Exposure to Drywall Sanding Dust

Generating dust on a construction site is a hazard of the profession. Workers sanding drywall joint compound may have the greatest exposure. They can be exposed to large concentrations of dusts and possibly silica as joint compounds are made from a variety of components such as talc, calcite, mica, gypsum, and silica. Some of these ingredients have been linked with mild to moderate eye, nose, throat, and respiratory tract irritation. However, continually breathing the dust from drywall joint compounds may cause severe throat and airway irritation, coughing, and breathing difficulties. Smokers or workers with sinus or respiratory problems are at risk for even greater health problems. When silica is present, workers may be exposed to an increased risk of silicosis and lung cancer.

Finding an appropriate solution to the problem is a double-edged sword. It is in an employer’s best interests to control dust exposure to cut down on health absences and the costs associated with these types of absences, but not at the expense of workflow. Material Safety Data Sheets provided by joint compound manufacturers have attempted to deal with the problem. Either they recommend wet sanding, which is generally avoided because of concerns about drying time and texture finish; or wearing respiratory protection, which many workers fail to wear properly.

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) studied several sanding systems that use portable vacuums to capture and remove the dust before the worker is exposed to it. Their engineers compared the dust exposures from three pole sanding and two hand-sanding vacuum control systems with the exposures from traditional, non-ventilated sanding methods. The five commercially available vacuum sanding controls successfully reduced dust exposures by 80% to 97%. Four of the five sanding controls cut exposures by almost 95%.

In addition to lowering exposures, the engineers also found that vacuum-sanding systems can help both the worker and the employer in other ways. The reduction in airborne dust makes for a much cleaner work area both during and after sanding. For workers, the cleaner work environment is more comfortable; less irritating to eyes, nose, and throat; and less likely to require respiratory protection. For the employer it means that workers will be more productive, be absent less, and require fewer breaks for fresh air. There is a cost savings that results from a cleaner environment because it reduces cleanup time and the time spent in repairing or repainting stained floors and carpets.  These findings proved that using safety measures to protect worker health didn’t have to come at the expense of quality or cost-effectiveness.

Lead Poisoning: Protection Isn’t Just for Kids

Lead poisoning is a preventable condition that results from environmental exposure to lead and can result in permanent health damage. Lead poisoning affects almost all parts of the body, including the central nervous system, kidneys, and reproductive organs.

Adults are most often exposed to lead through occupational exposures. The major sources of lead are lead-based paint, urban soil and dust that contains deposits of paint, gasoline additives and industrial waste, and drinking water that has been contaminated from lead solder, brass fittings and fixtures.

Once lead enters the body, from inhalation or ingestion, it is distributed to the red blood cells, soft tissue and bones by way of the bloodstream.  It impairs vital biological functions throughout the body. Lead can cause serious damage to body systems, which may be permanent or fatal.

Chronic lead poisoning results after lead has accumulated in the bones over time. Adverse health effects may appear long after the exposure to lead has ended. Such problems include: impaired hemoglobin synthesis, hypertension, alteration in the central and peripheral nervous systems, and damage to the reproductive system.

Acute lead poisoning results after a significant amount of lead has entered the body over a short period of time. The primary health effects involve gastrointestinal distress, destruction of red blood cells and serious brain swelling.  Symptoms of less severe acute lead poisonings include: abdominal pain, constipation, irritability, fatigue, weakness and muscle pain. If someone is suffering from a more severe form of acute lead poisoning, their symptoms might include: vomiting, irritability and restlessness, progressive drowsiness, tremors and seizures and lapsing into a coma.

If an employer intends to shield workers from excessive exposure to lead poisoning, they must follow the following safety practices:

·        Have an industrial hygienist perform an initial hazard assessment of the worksite to determine the composition of any paint. Environmental monitoring should also be performed to measure worker exposure to airborne lead and select the engineering controls and personal protective equipment that is necessary. Environmental monitoring should be performed on an ongoing basis to measure the effectiveness of controls and to determine whether the proper respiratory protection is being worn.

·        Engineering controls should be used to minimize exposures to lead at the worksite. Airborne lead exposures should not exceed the current OSHA standard for general industry (50 µg/m3). Engineering controls should try to include substitution of less toxic material, equipment modification, and local and general exhaust ventilation.

·        Before welding, cutting, or burning any metal coated with lead, remove the coating to a point at least 4 inches from the area where heat will be applied. When removal of lead-based paint is not possible, use engineering controls like exhaust ventilation to protect workers who are welding, cutting, or burning the lead-coated materials. These controls should be used to remove fumes and smoke at the source and to keep the concentration of lead in the breathing zone below the OSHA standard. Contaminated air should be filtered before it is discharged into the environment.  

·        When performing abrasive blasting, scaling, chipping, grinding, or other operations to remove lead-based paint, minimize the amount of dust generated by using centrifugal blasting, wet blasting, and vacuum blasting. Other methods that reduce dust include scraping, use of needle guns, and chemical removal.

All workers exposed to lead should wash their hands and faces before eating, drinking, or smoking, and they should not eat, drink, or smoke in the work area. They should change into work clothes at the worksite. Street clothes should be stored separately from work clothes in a clean area provided by the employer. Workers should change back into their street clothes after washing or showering and before leaving the worksite. Cars should be parked where they will not be contaminated.

Pull Out All the Stops – Prevent Electrical Shock in the Workplace

Approximately 700 deaths a year are caused by electrocution, according to the National Safety Council.  This is alarming considering that most of these deaths are easily preventable.  Employers should be aware of this and take steps to implement an overall electrical safety plan that will guard against future accidents of this kind.  OSHA maintains standards that dictate minimum compliance requirements.  This can be the first step in ensuring that the workplace is governed by firm safety rules, but also reinforced through training and monitored on a regular basis.  A safe workplace should also be in compliance with the National Electrical Code (NEC) and National Electrical Safety Code (NESC).

When training employees provide documentation detailing specific safety guidelines that employees need to follow.  Training should include instruction in basic electrical theory, safe work procedures, identification of potential hazards and proper lockout/tagout procedures.  Employees should also receive training in First Aid and CPR. 

It is essential to protect workers who work near electrical power circuits.  Many employers and workers are unaware that even a small amount of current is enough to prove fatal.  Circuits should be deactivated prior to working on or around them.  If this is not possible other measures, such as insulating tools and the wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) should be followed.

When starting a new project it is essential to identify potential electrical hazards and plan accordingly to ensure employee safety.  OSHA identifies electrical shock as one of the four major hazards in construction.

The most frequent causes of electrical injuries according to OSHA are:

  • Failure to de-energize electric circuits and equipment before working on them
  • Contact with power lines
  • Lack of ground-fault protection
  • Path to ground missing or discontinuous
  • Equipment not used in manner prescribed
  • Improper use of extension and flexible cords

In addition to training and protection, periodic inspection of electrical equipment will help prevent injuries.  Equipment that produces shock, or wires showing visible signs of wear should be removed and either repaired or replaced immediately.

Take step to ensure electrical safety before an accident occurs.  Prevention is the key to saving lives.

Safety Incentive Programs -Do They Really Work?

The practice of rewarding or paying employees for not having workplace accidents is controversial.  With hopes of reducing costly workers’ compensation claims and improving the safety culture of their organization, companies are increasingly implementing safety incentive programs.

Professionals who support safety incentives believe they can be a healthy component of an existing safety program, to build interest in working safely, and thus reduce workplace accidents.  They find it a valuable tool to show employees that they care about their workers’ safety and believe that it can have lasting effects and improve morale.  They also see that it dissuades exaggerated or false injury claims.

Those who discourage companies from implementing safety incentive programs often believe they are no more than a form of bribery.  Because incentive programs do not involve a core change in existing procedures or conditions, this group fears they can actually create a negative safety culture that promotes underreporting of accidents.   They feel they reward the wrong behavior because accidents are usually not intentional acts and do not only involve improper actions.  Usually it is unsafe conditions and inadequate procedures that contribute to causes of accidents.

Even proponents see that a safety incentive program by itself does not constitute a corporate safety program.  Employees cannot improve their safety record if they do not already have the training to know how to manage hazards and work safely. 

When a company’s safety program is not already functioning and effective, adding a safety incentive program could promote the underreporting of accidents as employees pursue rewards and, in group incentive scenarios, avoid being the reason why their fellow employees don’t receive their rewards.

To be effective, a corporation’s safety incentive program must be thoughtfully developed, launched and maintained.  Generally these programs fail because of inadequate commitment from management level staff or poor program administration.  What is most important when considering an incentive program is that the company’s existing program is strong and effective, that upper management is active in all stages of the program in a way that is visible to employees, that the program is well structured with goals and rewards tailored to the workforce and that communication about the program to employees is ongoing.

Best Practices for Arc Welding Safety

A welder’s job can be dangerous in more ways than what would appear to be evident.  Not only are there immediate injuries, like burns, but there are also injuries that can develop over time. 

Ultraviolet Radiation (UV) is created by an electric arc while you are welding.  If your skin is exposed to UV, you can be severely burned.  UV exposure can also damage the lens of the eye, which can lead to what is called “arc-eye.” Arc-eye is a condition in which you constantly feel as though there is sand in your eye. Another type of hazard created by the electric arc is Infrared Radiation (IR). IR can heat the surface of the skin as well as the tissues just below the skin, which can lead to thermal burns. Arc welding also exposes you to intense light and this can result in a variety of injuries, including damage to the retinas of your eyes.

That is why it is so important that you are properly clothed and protected from the heat, ultra-violet rays and infrared rays produced by the arc welder. To protect your torso, you should wear a pair of fire retardant long sleeved coveralls without cuffs. Do not wear clothing with tears, snags, rips, or worn spots because sparks can easily ignite them. Keep your sleeves and collars buttoned at all times while you are welding. Your hands should be protected with leather gauntlet gloves. Protect your feet by wearing a pair of high top leather shoes, preferably safety shoes. If you do wear low shoes, fire resistant leggings should be worn around your ankles.

Your eyes are one of the most vulnerable parts of your body when you are welding, so wear transparent goggles to protect them. In addition, it is mandatory that you wear a welding helmet or hand shield with filter plate and cover plate to protect your eyes from the harmful rays of the arc. Never use a helmet if the filter plate or cover lens is cracked or broken. A flameproof skullcap to protect the hair and head and hearing protection for the noise are also good practices.

Plastic disposable cigarette lighters are very dangerous around heat and flame. It is very important that you don’t carry them in your pockets while you are welding.

The work you are welding should be placed on a firebrick surface at a height that is comfortable for you. You should never weld directly on a concrete floor. Heat from the arc can cause steam to build-up in the floor, which could result in an explosion. Place the welder cables in a spot where sparks and molten metal won’t fall on them. They should also be kept free of grease and oil.

Avoid welding on steel or other metals that conduct electricity. But if you must, be sure you are standing on an insulating mat to prevent electric shock. If the area you are welding in is wet or damp or you are perspiring heavily, you should wear rubber gloves under the welding gloves to decrease the chance of being shocked.

Metal should always be thoroughly cleaned with a wire brush before welding. When chipping slag or wire brushing the finished bead, be sure to protect your eyes and body from flying debris. Unused electrodes and electrode stubs should never be left on the floor. Always handle hot metal with metal tongs or pliers.

When cooling hot metal in water it should be done carefully to prevent being burned from the escaping steam. Any metal left to cool should be carefully marked “HOT” with a soapstone. When you have finished working for the day, electrodes should be removed from the holder. The holder should be placed where no one can accidentally come in contact with it and the welder should be disconnected from its power source.

Talking on the Phone While Driving Could Cost More Than You Realize

Americans can’t be parted from their cell phones, especially when they are driving.  A recent survey conducted by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicated that approximately 10 percent of drivers on the road are talking on their cell phones when behind the wheel.  This is a 25 percent increase from 2004’s levels.  Sixty percent of those drivers are using handheld phones, up from 50% last year.  Clearly the cell phone has gone from emergency aid to chic accessory.

Even though talking on the cell phone while driving may be de rigueur for the fashion forward, many state governments do not feel the same way.  Although there is no federal law limiting cell phone use while driving, many states have passed their own legislation.  For example, some states have banned the use of handheld devices while driving, but allow the use of hands-free devices.  Other states have chosen to put restrictions on driver classifications, such as bus drivers or under 30 drivers, rather than create a general ban on cell phone use.

The frenzy surrounding cell phone use while driving stems from studies which indicate that drivers who talk on the phone are more likely to cause accidents.  One recent study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that both handheld and hands-free phones increased the risk of a crash.  The test group included 456 participants who used a cell phone and were treated in emergency rooms for injuries suffered in crashes from April 2002 to July 2004.  By using phone records and interviews, the Institute calculated the increased risk of a crash by comparing phone use during the 10 minutes prior to a participant’s crash, along with their phone use during the previous week.

The increased risk stems from a situation that was dubbed “inattention blindness,” by researchers David Strayer, Frank Drews and William Johnston in a 2003 study conducted at the University of Utah.  They discovered that talking on cell phones while driving diverts the driver’s attention from their visual environment, making them unable to recognize objects encountered in their visual field.  One would think that using a hands-free phone would be less distracting, thus not increasing the risk of inattention blindness as much as using a hand-held phone.  But, the researches found that either phone type increases the risk of accident.  Why?  Well, current hands-free phones aren’t really hands-free.  Only cell phones that are fully voice activated may be less likely to increase the risk of inattention blindness.  However, further studies will need to be conducted to determine if that is true.

Meanwhile, when you are using your cell phone while operating your car, keep this in mind.  In October 2004, a Virginia jury ordered Jane Wagner, a former lawyer, who was accused of driving and talking on her cell phone when she struck and killed a teenager, to pay the victim’s family $2 million.  Wagner served one year in jail after pleading guilty to leaving the scene of an accident.  Upon conviction, she also forfeited her license to practice law.

Start a Safety Committee to Increase the Effectiveness of Your Safety Program

If employees don’t feel involved and represented in their company’s safety program, it is unlikely the program will be successful.  A workplace safety committee is a tool that, if created and conducted properly, can increase the effectiveness of a safety program by:

  • Providing structure and assigning responsibility for carrying out a workplace safety program;
  • Enhancing a cooperative attitude and bringing together strong interaction among various areas of an organization;
  • Serving as a communication vehicle for employees to voice safety concerns;
  • Serving as a tool for employers to promote safety to employees; and
  • Spreading the responsibility of the safety program among employees.

A safety committee will only be successful, however, if it is carefully created with structure and support.  As with any safety initiative, it is imperative that management be visibly and actively involved.  Members should serve on the committee and attend regular meetings.   Other committee members should be chosen for their enthusiasm, potential expertise and communication skills.  The committee should include representatives from all the various departments but not become so large that it becomes cumbersome and ineffective.

To ensure that the committee doesn’t become a place for employees just to voice complaints, the committee’s goals should be clear from the start.  Its primary role is always to promote and ensure the success of a company’s safety program.  

The specific responsibilities of the safety committee may include:

  • Develop strategic safety goals and annual action items;
  • Participate in development, monitoring and updating of safety program and possible safety incentives;
  • Hold monthly safety meetings;
  • Hold regular workplace safety inspections and help identify workplace hazards;
  • Participate in accident/incident investigations;
  • Ensure maintenance of injury and work hazard records;
  • Perform review of illness and injury records;
  • Organize regular safety training programs;
  • Consult with outside experts when necessary;
  • Address employee complaints and suggestions regarding safety issues;
  • Make safety recommendations to management; and
  • Communicate with employees and management about safety issues and goals.

Every group needs a leader and a safety committee is no exception.  A workplace safety coordinator should be assigned to head the group.  For many companies this will not be a separate position but rather an added role to an individual’s existing position.  The coordinator is responsible for leading the committee, scheduling and heading safety meetings, serving as a point-of-contact with outside agencies and retaining safety records and documents.  Safety meetings should be well documented and the records should be retained for at least a couple years.   Many safety committees prepare an annual report to overview the safety trends within the organization, advertise their results, and identify outstanding safety issues. 

For companies beginning a new safety committee, the following first meeting agenda is a good starting point:

  • Establish the role and purpose of the committee;
  • Discuss the commitment required from each member;
  • Develop an agenda for what the committee hopes to achieve, both long and short term;
  • Assign action items to the members of the committee; and

Take meeting notes and post the minutes as well as committee goals and action items.

The Psychology of Safety and The Gen Y Worker

Pop psychologists have been talking about the Generation Gap since the 1960s when the term first made its appearance in the vernacular.  As any Baby Boomer can tell you, the phrase developed because at no time in the history of this country were the differences between two generations as significant as they were then.

Well, what goes around comes around.  The generation that made history by rebelling against the establishment now finds themselves on the other side of the fence.  Their children, Generation Y, are now the ones pushing the envelope.  But instead of questioning social policy, Gen Y is redefining communication.  They were the first to grow up with the Internet, instant messaging and cellular phones, and reaching them means using a multi-media approach, whether it’s in the classroom or on the job site.

They are also the first generation to grow up in a society that puts emphasis on worker safety.  Gen Y was raised in the age of OSHA.  They have never experienced working in a pre-OSHA environment, and they take jobsite safety for granted.  And although they might assume safety is a given, it’s this assumption that makes them more receptive to being trained to work safely than their older colleagues.

If you want Gen Y to buy into your safety training, it needs to deal with the immediate – not the long term.  Remember, this is the generation that instantly communicates; they are not about the future, but are all about now.  If safety training doesn’t show them how it affects them in the present, it won’t have any impact.

This is also a generation intensely concerned with the way they look.  The ripped jeans and ragged tee shirts of their parents have been replaced with chic designer labels.  When it comes to Personal Protective Equipment, Gen Y tends to regard style as much, if not more than, the equipment’s safety features.  In a competition between looking cool in the short-term versus protecting themselves from long-term physical harm, looking cool will win every time.  Manufacturers of Personal Protective Equipment are responding with gear that is as much an accessory to work clothes, as it is protective.  Equipment is being designed in bright colors with popular patterns. The emphasis is on making Gen Y workers compliant with requirements for wearing protective gear because it accommodates their sense of style.

OSHA, too, recognizes the need to appeal to this new generation of worker in a fresh way.  Recognizing that the youngest members of the work force face a higher risk of occupational injury because of their limited job knowledge, training and skills, the agency provides employers with brochures, posters and other educational materials that appeal directly to Gen Y.

OSHA has also developed a Web page, www.osha.gov/SLTC/teenworkers, designed to provide safety information to young workers, employers, parents and educators.  In addition, they convened the Federal Network for Young Worker Safety and Health, a group of 12 federal agencies whose goal is to keep Gen Y workers safe and healthy on the job.  Agencies participating in this network include NIOSH, EPA and the Department of Education.

Consider Safety Accommodations for the Older Worker

With age comes wisdom and experience. However, getting older also brings the inevitable decline in physical and sometimes mental agility. This change can present serious challenges for the older worker. The Department of Labor’s workplace statistics for 2004 indicate workers 64 and older had the lowest number of workplace injuries, however, the fatality rate for workers 55 and older rose by 10 percent.

How is it possible for older workers to have fewer job-related injuries than other age groups, but still experience increased fatalities? The answer to that question lies in the body’s reaction to the aging process. While older workers may have fewer accidents, when they get injured their injuries are often more severe. A longer healing process allows more time for complications that can lead to death.

However, it isn’t only the possibility of older worker fatalities that must concern employers. The type of injuries the maturing employee suffers is also significant. Older workers tend to report more back injuries than their younger counterparts. In addition, a number of workplace injuries are the result of performing the same tasks over and over. Repetitive motion injuries develop over time. Because of this, older workers report more musculoskeletal injuries since they’ve had more time for these types of injuries to develop.

As the work force continues to age, it is important for employers to recognize these facts and make accommodations that will allow older employees to remain safe and healthy. The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) recommends the following environmental changes to keep maturing workers safe:

·   Improve illumination and add color contrast.

·   Eliminate heavy lifts, elevated work from ladders and long reaches.

·   Design work floors and platforms with smooth and solid decking while still allowing some cushioning.

·   Reduce static standing time.

·   Remove clutter from control panels and computer screens and use large video displays.

·   Reduce noise levels.

·   Install chain actuators for valve hand wheels, damper levers or other similar control devices, which bring the control manipulation to ground level and help reduce falls.

·   Install skid-resistant material for flooring and especially for staircase treads.

·   Install shallow-angle stairways in place of ladders when space permits and where any daily, elevated access is needed to complete a task.

·   Utilize hands-free, volume-adjustable telephone equipment.

·   Increase task rotation, which will reduce the strain of repetitive motion.

·   Lower sound system pitches, such as on alarm systems, as they tend to be easier to hear.

·   Lengthen time requirements between steps in a task.

·   Increase the time allowed for making decisions.

·   Consider necessary reaction time when assigning older workers to tasks.

·   Provide opportunities for practice and time to develop task familiarity.

Bear in mind that even though these changes are ostensibly being made for the older worker, they will actually have a beneficial effect on the health and safety of the entire work force population.

Good Housekeeping Is Safety Job One

Cleaning up is usually not a task many people enjoy.  Whether it’s washing the dishes after a big meal or scrubbing the shower, most people would rather put off until tomorrow what they should be doing today.

The same is true for housekeeping at work.  Employees get involved in the day-to-day routine, always intending to clean up but never quite doing it.  Sometimes, they make a half-hearted attempt at sweeping aside some paper, but it doesn’t attack the real problem.  That’s because the problem with poor on-site housekeeping goes beyond just hygiene.  Lack of regular housekeeping can actually be the catalyst for injury.

Employers should establish a routine housekeeping program and designate someone to administer it and to ensure employees follow it consistently.  If a housekeeping program is going to be truly effective, management must show they have enough commitment to the program to formalize it and have a designated overseer.

This kind of strict adherence to good housekeeping practices will lower your company’s accident rates, which in turn lowers costs for medical claims and workers’ compensation.  Fewer injuries occur when there is sufficient work area for employees to move freely while doing their jobs.  Fewer injuries can also lead to increased production.  When work areas are hazard-free and supplies and equipment are orderly, workers can perform their jobs more efficiently with little down time spent looking for what they need.

A clean workplace also helps workers think more clearly.  If employees know they will be able to access what they need to perform their jobs, a major source of stress in the workplace is eliminated.  Work becomes less like “work” and much more enjoyable.  As employees find themselves less burdened with concerns about being physically able to get the job done, it boosts their morale, in turn increasing production and quality of their output.

What should you include in your on-site housekeeping program?  The California State Compensation Insurance Fund recommends the following:

• Neatly arrange small parts, tools, cords, hoses, and equipment

• Close drawers and cabinet doors when not in use

• Store materials and supplies away from edges and at a stable height

• Clean up liquid spills and tracked in water, mud, and snow, which could cause a slip and fall

• Properly store or dispose of oily rags or flammable liquids

• Put scraps or debris in available trash containers

• Keep aisles, walkways, platforms, and stairways clean, clear, and dry

• Insure easy access to fire extinguishers, safety equipment, and emergency exits

The most important lesson to teach employees is that following good housekeeping practices is an ongoing process that every worker should adhere to each and every day.  Once good housekeeping practices become a part of your workplace culture, it will take less time and effort to follow them because they will be second nature to your employees.

Are mp3 Players a Safety Hazard at Work?

“Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast.” At least so thought William Congreve, a 17th century English playwright. However, the music Congreve was referring to didn’t come out of technological concoctions such as the mp3 player. Had he been alive today, he might be less concerned with the effects of the music and a lot more concerned with the effects of using this technology, especially on the job.

The mp3 player is fast becoming the method of choice for employees who need their daily dosage of tunes during the workday. While it can be argued that usage of personal music players in the office help employees concentrate by letting them tune out extraneous noise, it should be noted that any productivity gain comes with a price.

The first safety hazard associated with repeated mp3 player use is a condition that results from the hand movements necessary to navigate through a playlist. The British Chiropractic Association has called the movement “unnatural,” stating it separates the joint in the thumb every time the action is performed. The ultimate result of repeating this movement too often is a Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI). In addition to RSI, the prolonged gripping of the device, the repetitive pushing of the small buttons and the awkward wrist movements can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis. As the devices become even smaller with each succeeding product generation, the risk for these conditions will become more prevalent. And as every employer knows, an employee with carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis is not only unproductive, but prone to racking up large medical claims.

The potential for hearing-related problems connected with mp3 player use is another source of alarm. Digital technology permits users to listen to thousands of consecutive hours of music. Older technologies either required users to turn over a cassette or contained only an hour or so of stored music. Either way, the ears had a brief respite from the sound. Also, the higher-quality sound of new music players makes it easier for users to turn up the volume to dangerous levels. High-volume levels can result in tinnitus, a condition in which the sufferer hears continuous buzzing in the ears.

Many tinnitus sufferers complain of buzzing, whooshing, chirping, hissing, ocean waves and even music in their ears. Some people only experience tinnitus occasionally, while others experience it 24 hours a day. The problem is associated with the sensorineural system, which transmits signals from the inner ear to the brain. An employee suffering from tinnitus is not going to exhibit increased levels of concentration.

As if this weren’t enough, employees walking around with earphones not only block out extraneous noise, but everything else, including warnings of imminent danger such as a fire alarm. This puts them at increased risk for personal injury.

For these reasons employers who permit the use of mp3 player or other personal music players in the workplace should establish guidelines concerning the length of time an employee can listen and in what areas mp3 player use is permitted.