Workplace Safety

It’s Heating Up – Summer Safety

SummerSafety_May2014_webIt’s heating up outside, and some regions are already experiencing heat waves. As we get closer to the summer months it’s important that everyone understands the signs of heat illness and practices prevention.

3 Degrees of Heat Illness
Although there are many types of heat illness, here are three basic types to be aware of:

  1. Heat stress often involves confusion and heat cramps. If you are experiencing muscle cramps due to heat, tell someone, move to a cool shaded area, and drink lots of fluids like water, a light juice, or sports drinks. You can return to work if the cramps subside and you are feeling better, but you should not return to strenuous duty. If you’re not better in an hour, discuss taking the rest of the day off with your supervisor.
  2. Heat exhaustion is more severe. Symptoms include heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness or confusion, nausea, clammy skin, pale complexion, cramps, high body temperature, and shallow breathing. The treatment is the same for heat exhaustion and heat stress, but the focus should be on drinking cool water.  It is also a good idea to cool the body with a cool shower or wet cloth. If you experience heat exhaustion, you should not return to work that day.
  3. Heat stroke is very serious and can even be life threatening. Signs include profuse sweating or the extreme – sweat suddenly stopping. You may also suffer from hallucinations, chills, a throbbing headache, high body temperature, and slurred speech. Contact a supervisor and seek medical treatment immediately if you think you or someone you work with is experiencing heat stroke. The body must be cooled immediately during heat stroke. Soaking or dousing the body in cool water is recommended.

Preventing Heat Illness
To prevent heat illness, it is best to begin drinking fluids before your shift begins and to drink water at least every 15 minutes. Preparing in advance of heat exposure is the best way to avoid heat illness.  Water helps the body stay cool internally and prepares you for losing moisture through sweating. Sweat cools us by evaporating into the air, releasing heat. Remember to include regular breaks in shaded areas as well.

As the temperature outside continue to increase, it’s important to remember these heat safety tips to protect yourself and those around you. How do you avoid heat illness when it’s warm outside? Let us know in the comments section below.

Movin’ On Up is brought to you by Express Employment Professionals.

Workplace Violence: Three Measures To Stay Safe

workplaceviolancepic_webOccupational violence is a scary subject. We spend a majority of our time at our job and being safe is something many take for granted. This isn’t to say that it is inevitable that a violent uprising will overtake your place of employment, but being prepared or aware of the potential is important.

According to OSHA, more than two million American workers are victims of some form of workplace violence ranging from verbal abuse, bullying, and more serious physical assaults. Workplace violence also doesn’t necessarily mean it has to occur at the workplace; conflicts between co-workers outside of the office also fall into the definition. So, how do we avoid or at least curb the potential threat? Below are three measures you can take to stave off the danger.

1.    Read up on the policies and procedures.
Many employers have sections on workplace violence in their handbooks. These policies protect employees from liability and are almost always enforced without prejudice. If you are unsure of your company’s policy or procedures on handling occurrences, ask your supervisor or a representative of your HR department. Following these procedures can ensure your safety as well as that of your co-workers.

2.    Be aware of your surroundings.
Look for signs of distress from your co-workers. If a co-worker seems to be struggling with their day-to-day life, makes threats or mentions getting back at their employer, or exhibits irregular behavior out of the ordinary, these could be signs of instability. If you are concerned for a co-worker, don’t attempt to console them, instead notify a supervisor in private of your concern.

3.    Avoid danger.
If you’re placed in a situation with a hostile individual, don’t panic. Respect their personal space and don’t exhibit any body language or tone of voice that makes you seem like a threat. By placing obstacles between you and the person, and staying four to six feet away from a point of exit, you have the opportunity to flee if the circumstances require you to remove yourself from the situation. Never use physical force unless it is for defense against an assault. Once again, notify your supervisor if such an event occurs.

No one is immune to workplace violence, but a little bit of preparation and being aware of measures to prevent such occurrences just may protect you from harm in the event you are placed in an undesirable situation. Share your practices to avoid workplace violence in the comments section below.

Guest blog by: Mike Smith

Eyestrain: 3 Ways to Save Your Sight

Blurred vision, excessive headaches, itchy red eyes; these are just a few common symptoms of eyestrain. Formally referred to as asthenopia by ophthalmologists, it is a condition that we commonly encounter when concentrating on a visually intense task.

One of the most common causes of asthenopia is our daily exposure to technology. According to a recent survey conducted in 2012 by The Vision Council, U.S. adults spend four to six hours a day in front of the warm glow of electronic devices, and 70% of those surveyed reported some degree of eyestrain associated with this level of exposure. But, with technology being our connection to the world and an integral part of many careers how do we save ourselves from technology becoming a real pain in the eyes? Here are three simple methods to reduce the stresses on what many consider our most valuable faculty.

  1. Give It A Break
    Excessive use of monitors or televisions can cause the muscles in the eye to tighten, which can result in irritation or worse, blurred vision. By looking away or performing a task that requires activities that are less visually strenuous, you allow the muscles to relax. An easy way to achieve this is a method called the 20-20-20 break. Every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break and look at something 20 feet away.
  2. Don’t Go Towards The Light
    If at all possible, lower the level of your ambient lighting. By reducing the amount of surrounding light, your eyes won’t continually try to regulate the amount of light entering the eye. If you are like many, you may bake under a fluorescent sun. If you can’t adjust the light in your surrounding environment, lowering the brightness on your screen can reduce glare and the strain of reading.
  3. The Spectacle Of Spectacles
    Consulting an eye care specialist and having regular eye exams may relieve internal factors that may be causing eye stress. You may potentially need a pair of prescription glasses that are specially made to optimally view objects at intermediate distances. If you have acute vision, computer eyewear may help. With special tints and coatings, these lenses soften glare caused by direct and indirect light.

Unless there is an event that knocks us back into the Stone Age, our world will continue to advance into the future of technology and the potential of it being unnecessary is very unlikely. And since vision is imperative for much of your daily life, do yourself a favor and take care of your eyes by reducing the stress that you expose them to. If you have techniques that you use to provide some visual relief let us know in the comments section below.

3 Ways to Stay All Ears: Protecting Yourself from Hearing Hazards

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, nearly 30 million people annually are exposed to hazardous noise levels and since 2004, 125,000 workers have suffered significant and permanent hearing loss.

Loud noises, the constant drone of machines, as well as hazardous poisons referred to as ototoxic chemicals can cause significant and irreparable hearing damage. Hearing loss can result in many workplace complications including an increase in stress, reduced productivity, and an increased risk of workplace injuries. Fortunately, hearing loss can be preventable. So how do you protect yourself from losing such a valuable faculty? Here are three prevention and safety suggestions to ensure that you stay all ears.

  1. Wearing proper ear protection
    Hearing protection devices (HPD’s) are a simple way to put a barrier between your ears and the ruckus of the workplace. OSHA requires employers to have an “effective hearing conservation program“ available to employees. This program requires employers to provide sound level sampling, informational material to inform workers of the hazards, and appropriate protective gear.
  2. Regular Hearing Checkups
    Another requirement for applicable employers is the implementation and maintenance of continual audiometric testing. These checkups are important and allow for employees to monitor their hearing and the effects that workplace noise has on it. By keeping an eye on your ears you can take preventative measures if hearing loss begins to develop.
  3. Read the Materials Safety Data Sheets
    Ototoxic chemicals are substances that can permanently damage the inner ear if you’re exposed to them. Industries that have potential exposure to dangerous chemicals should have materials safety data sheets available to employees in the form of a book or online. If you’re concerned that the chemicals you handle everyday may have an adverse effect on you, review the safety materials provided by your employer.

Hearing is important and without it, many daily tasks can be hindered by an impairment. Hearing loss is preventable but you have to do your part. If you have tips on how you protect your ears, share them in the comment section below.

Play It Safe to Reduce Bloodborne Pathogen Risks at Work

blood_sharps_June2013_webIf your job includes exposure to blood or other potential infectious materials, awareness of preventive measures and universal precautions are the first step toward safety. Here’s a brief FAQ on bloodborne pathogens (BBP), infectious microorganisms present in blood that cause disease in humans, to help get you up to speed on some of the best precautions.

What are universal precautions?
It’s best to treat all blood and body fluids as if they are infectious. Having the same procedure at all times makes it easier to follow and creates safe habits, so as an employee it’s important to know where these guidelines are in your company and follow them.

Guidelines for universal precautions include:

  • Wearing impervious gloves
  • Wearing gowns, eye protection, and masks as necessary
  • Cleaning areas in contact with body fluids with appropriate cleaning solution, like a 10 to 1 ratio of water and bleach.

What are engineering controls?
Engineering controls are items that isolate or remove BBP from the workplace, such as sharps disposal containers or needleless systems. Prevention is key in limiting exposure to BBP, and using the right equipment can make that easier. Make sure you understand where disposal containers for exposed items are located and what the process is for handling contaminated materials. Use gloves, gowns, eye protection, and masks accordingly and make sure they are of good quality, free of tears, and not expired or worn out.

What are work practice controls?
Having the right equipment or engineering control is great, but the next step is work practices. Work practices are the way you do things to prevent that exposure. This means being aware of and understanding your job duties and procedures in order to conduct yourself in the safest way possible. Consider things like how specimens are handled, how laundry is done, and how cleaning is completed.

For more information on bloodborne pathogens, check out this fact sheet from OSHA.

Have you experienced any innovative practices to prevent the dangers of bloodborne pathogens? Share your experiences in the comments section below.

Do You Know What to do When Severe Storms Hit Your Workplace?

Storms at the WorkplaceWhile April showers bring May flowers, the threat of severe storms is present all year long. Unlike working in bitterly cold or dreadfully hot environments, sometimes severe storms can strike at a moment’s notice.

Job duties demand most of you time, energy and attention. But, if caught unprepared for a severe storm, serious injury can occur to you, your co-workers, clients, or customers. According to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), there were more than 450 weather-related fatalities and nearly 2,600 injuries in 2012.

The more you know about how to prepare, and protect yourself from severe weather, the more likely you are to avoid serious injury or death. Check out these guidelines to keep yourself informed, so you’ll be ready for any oncoming storms.

The Preparation
The most important thing to have ready for any weather related disaster is a plan. Be familiar with your employer’s weather disaster plan to know the proper escape routes or safest rooms to take shelter in during severe weather.

If your workplace doesn’t have a disaster plan, talk with your managers about developing one. Organizations like The Red Cross have checklists and recovery guides for major disasters that can be a great starting place for building a severe weather action plan. It’s always a good idea to be informed on local weather conditions by monitoring media reports by radio or phone.

The Action
If it’s too late to evacuate, stay indoors and limit travel to only necessary trips. Tune in to the radio or television for updates while keeping an eye on the sky for darkening skies, flashes of light, or increasing wind. During a storm, close outside doors and window, blinds, shades, or curtains; stay away from doors, windows and exterior walls; and remain in the shelter location until the danger has passed.

You should also listen for the sound of thunder, because if you are close enough to hear thunder, you’re close enough to be struck by lightning. Remember the 30/30 Lightning Safety Rule: Go indoors if, after seeing lightning, you cannot count to 30 before hearing thunder. Stay indoors for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder.

If the rain continues to pour for hours or lightly over several days, there could be a possibility of a flood. In case of flooding, do not walk through flowing water. Six inches of swiftly moving water can knock you off your feet.

The Aftermath
When severe weather has passed, remember to analyze overhead hazards such as broken tree limbs, wires and other debris. Be cautious walking around as well. There could be hazards like broken glass, leaking gas lines, damaged sewage systems, flooded electrical circuits, submerged appliances, or structural damage.

If your workplace has flooded, avoid the water as much as possible, because water may be contaminated by oil, gasoline, or raw sewerage. That’s why it is vital to thoroughly clean anything that came in contact with the flood water. If working with food, medicines, or cosmetics that have gotten wet, use your best judgment and throw out if in doubt.

You have no control on when and where severe weather will happen. But, you do have control on how prepared you will be when it does. With these guidelines, you’ll be ready to show the forces of nature that you’re a force to be reckoned with.

The Shocking Truth Behind Electrical Safety

Electrical SafetyElectricity drives almost everything. From starting the car for the morning commute to setting the alarm clock before going to bed, electricity is a necessity. Throughout the day, most people don’t realize how much electricity they use. According to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, the world consumes an estimated 19 trillion megawatt hours every year. One megawatt can sustain power to 1000 houses for one hour.

It’s easy to take electricity for granted when few people get to see what goes into producing the energy. Thousands of workers spend the majority of their day operating on or near electric circuits and equipment – and it’s a dangerous job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, electrocution is the fifth leading cause of work-related deaths for 16- to 19-year-olds.

Working on or around power doesn’t have to be an accident waiting to happen. Here is how you can keep yourself safe when working near electricity.

Getting Electrocuted is no Electric Boogaloo
Many make the mistake of assuming that low voltage means low risk. But voltage is only half of it. The amount of charge passing through a conduit, called an ampere or amp, can have a big impact on the danger of electrical work. Amps can be so dangerous that 1/10 of an amp going through the body for two seconds is enough to cause death. The average light bulb can have at least two amps flowing through it. Think of it like a tube of water: the amount of water flowing is the voltage and the speed of the flow is the amp current. Multiplying the numbers determines the power, or wattage, of the electricity.

Electricity also flows from point-to-point until it can disperse or move somewhere else. If electrocuted through your head, hands, or feet, the current can flow through your body and cause severe damage to vital organs like the heart or brain. It’s best to assume that all wires are energized at lethal voltages. Never assume that a wire is safe to touch even if it is down or appears to be insulated.

Recognize and Evaluate the Hazards
It’s important to follow any company policies on working near electricity. Discuss these policies with your co-workers so everyone will be responsible for each other and inspect electric cords and equipment to ensure that they are in good condition and free of defects. But, never try to repair any lines or equipment unless qualified and authorized. Look to see if your work environment is damp or close to water, then use a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI).

Avoid the Danger
Wearing the proper protective equipment should be mandatory for avoiding electrical accidents. Before starting work, survey the area for lose wires or unsafe situations. Also, be aware when a current is active or “hot” and when it’s shut off, and then stay at least 10 feet away from wires during cleanup.

Saving a Co-Worker in Danger
Even though you may be doing all you can to keep yourself safe, there’s a very real possibility that co-workers can put themselves at risk of being shocked, which could endanger you and others.

The most important thing to remember is to not touch anybody who is still in contact with a live electrical circuit. Make sure you shut off the source of the electrical current while somebody else calls for help. Once the current is cut, stay with the victim until emergency medical services arrive. Call out to the victim to see if they are conscious. If awake, tell the victim not to move, there could be an injury the victim isn’t aware of. Inspect them for any signs of major bleeding, and apply pressure with a cloth until qualified help arrives.

While electricity can be in almost every aspect of daily life, don’t allow the possible danger when working with electrical circuitry or power lines to become routine. With these guidelines, you can keep you and your co-workers safe from any shocking turn of events.