Workplace Safety

When Elevated, Fall in Line with Safety

Fall SafetyWhile millions of people go to work inside buildings that can be hundreds of feet tall, there are countless others who work on top or along the outer walls of those buildings. They are the window washers, the construction workers, and the roofers, who make working in these buildings possible.

More than 14% of all fatal work injuries in 2011 were caused by falls, slips, or trips from elevated areas, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Falls are among the most common causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths in the United States. If you work on roofs, ladders, scaffolding, or any other place that is off the ground, here are ways you can keep yourself safe.

The Roof! The Roof! The Roof is on Securely!
Most falling injuries reported are in the construction industry. That’s why it’s important to always wear a properly fitted harness. Keep it connected and inspect harnesses before working on the roof of any building.

Guardrails or toe boards should be present when working around holes or skylines. Even if you aren’t on a roof, rails are important to keeping workers from falling into machinery or hazardous substances even if they are only a few feet above the ground.
If none of these safety measures are available, do not get on the roof until they are provided.

Ladder Disaster
There’s a lot that goes into ladder safety like choosing the correct placement, securing, and facing the ladder. But you can greatly reduce your chances of falling off a ladder by planning ahead. Work with your supervisor to determine which type of equipment should be provided, the best places to put the ladder, and how to share that information with the rest of your co-workers. Avoiding injury can be contagious if others see you following the rules.

Don’t Scoff the Scaffold
Just like equipment used on roofs, scaffolds should always be inspected to make sure they are level, stable, and fully planked. The guardrails should be completed along the entire edge of the scaffolds and should always have an easily accessed area to properly climb one. If there is no defined entrance, workers may begin to climb the cross braces, which are meant to evenly support the beams, not directly support bodyweight.

Scaffolds should always be the correct height needed for you to do your job. If something isn’t high enough, contact your manager or project lead. You shouldn’t have to risk more injury by standing on the guardrails or placing a ladder on top of the scaffolds to reach a high point.
Working high above the ground is a necessity. Some of the hardest working people put themselves at risk every day to make sure the job gets done. If you follow these safety guidelines, you’ll be able to complete jobs successfully throughout your career

Computer Screens and Your Eyes

Electronic Screens and Your EyesIn the 80s, Madonna would sing about being a “material girl living in a material world” but today, she’d be more likely to be a “digital girl living in a digital world.” We are constantly surrounded by electronic devices and their ever-glowing screens. Millions of Americans wake up to work at a computer screen all day, take break periods to text, chat, and update their social media site on their smartphones, go home to relax on their big screen TV, and then read a few chapters of a book from their tablet device in bed before falling asleep.

Do you know how much strain you’re putting on your eyes? A survey conducted by The Vision Council found that nearly 70% of U.S. adults experience some form of digital eye strain while using electronic devices. This kind of eye strain can cause severe pain and can eventually lead to a permanent loss of eyesight. Here’s how you can make your peepers keepers.

How Do I Know if My Eyes Are Strained?
When your eyes are strained, they typically feel irritated and dry while looking red due to reduced blinking rates. Your vision can start to blur due to glaring from bad lighting or outdated equipment.

Your eyes aren’t the only things that can feel the strain. Back and neck pain can occur from poor body posture and positioning. Painful pressure can build on neck muscles if the neck is constantly moving up and down. Strong headaches and general fatigue can occur when straining to see small fonts and images on a screen.

Wax On, Wax Off
A simple and easy way to cut down on eye strain is to make sure all of your electronic devices are clean and properly wiped. It’s important to have your devices free of dirt and fingerprint smudges to reduce glare and strain on your eyes while trying to see what’s on the screen. Use a proper screen cleaning cloth or an electronics-friendly cleaner to have an eye friendly screen.

Go the Distance
It’s always important to be aware of how close electronic screens are to your eyes. There should always be sufficient space between your eyes and the screen. Computer monitors should be about the same distance as your extended arm with your palm up.

It’s All About Location, Location, Location
Adjust computer screens and portable devices to where they are directly in front of your face, straight, and slightly below eye level. If you notice that reading documents causes you to squint or puts strain on your eyes, use your computer’s settings to increase the text size so it feels comfortable to your eyes.

Most importantly, don’t forget to take breaks. Remind yourself to blink more often to reduce dryness and refocus your eyes. There is also the 20-20-20 break – every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break and look at something 20 feet away. You’d be surprised how many times people forget to blink and rest their eyes when viewing an electronic screen because they are so integral to daily life.

Digital screens are everywhere. It’s important that you maintain healthy practices to prevent strain and damage to your eyesight that could become permanent. If you notice any symptoms of strain that constantly persist, contact your physician or optometrist. Screens and portable devices are here to stay. It’s up to you to keep your eyes safe from over exposure.

You Don’t Need a Ph.D. to Practice Ergonomics at Work

ergonomics at workThere’s still a large debate in the workforce about sitting down vs. standing up at work. No matter what side of the debate you’re on, you can greatly reduce the risk of disease and injury by a common discipline called ergonomics.

Ergonomics is the principle of designing an environment or posture to optimize human well-being and overall system performance. It’s basically ways of positioning yourself and your surroundings to be as comfortable and less strenuous as possible.

You don’t have to have an office job at a desk to better fit yourself to your surroundings. From a corporate office to a shipping warehouse, there are several ways you can practice ergonomics in the workplace to keep yourself safe and comfortable.

According to the Human Factors and Ergonomics program at Cornell University, standing for long periods of time dramatically increases the risks of carotid atherosclerosis, a condition where the artery wall thickens as a result of the accumulation of fatty materials like cholesterol. That’s why it is important to take frequent breaks to sit. When standing, make sure you are shifting your weight periodically, dropping your shoulders down and back, and pulling your head straight up like someone is pulling it up with a string. You should also be aware of proper footrests, floor mats, and shoes to help relieve tension, increase blood flow, increase your energy, decrease anxiety, and make you feel better.

For those who sit at a desk while working, it’s important to lose the ridged 90 degree posture. Sitting at a slight slouch is often more comfortable and better for your back. Your chair should be low enough that your feet are touching the ground and the desk and keyboard should be where your wrists are straight. Any computer monitors, TV screens, or other electronic displays should be at least 24 inches from your face, but the farther the better.

You may not think about it, but lighting can have a large impact on your productivity and health. Bad lighting conditions can strain your eyes and cause head, back, and neck aches. Consider using portable or adjustable desk lamps to help direct the light where it’s most needed. This way you have enough light to read documents and avoid excessive room lights that can glare on computer screens.

Whether you’re sitting or standing, movement is vital to maintaining health. Sustaining any fixed, rigid posture for an extended period of time is one of the worst things you could do. Frequently change positions or shift weight along with taking full advantage of your scheduled break time to walk around or sit. Experts say that a quick 30 second pause every 10 minutes can be very effective if your break schedule is irregular.

The choices you make today can have a serious impact on your future. Don’t take the energy of your youth for granted by living a sedentary or overly strenuous lifestyle. What are your favorite ways to mobilize yourself at work?

Join the Fight Against Frostbite

Protect Yourself from FrostbiteWith winter in full swing and the days of blistering heat behind us, you may think that harsh weather conditions at work are gone until next year. The fact is, extreme cold can be just as dangerous as extreme heat.

When working in freezing conditions, you are at risk of developing frostbite – localized damage to your skin when it freezes. While frostbite initially isn’t permanent, it can lead to permanent nerve damage, amputation, and even gangrene if left unattended. Here are ways you can avoid getting frostbite this winter season.

Signs and Symptoms
When working long hours in the cold, if you start to feel itching followed by pain, immediately get out of the cold and check the affected skin. If the itchy, painful area is white or grayish-yellow, feels unusually firm or waxy, or is numb, seek medical attention immediately. Those symptoms are the first stage of frostbite called frostnip. While not permanently damaging, it can lead to more severe complications if left unattended.

If immediate medical assistance is unavailable, get to a warm room as soon as possible, immerse the affected area in warm, but not hot, water, or warm the skin using your own body heat until you can get treatment. It’s best to avoid using major heat sources like heating pads, and fireplaces since the frostbitten skin is generally numb and can easily be burned.

You Got a Friend in Me
Often an individual is unaware that he is affected by frostbite until someone else points it out because the frozen tissues are numb. It’s best to have a partner so you can monitor each other for signs of cold stress. Most of the time, it’s difficult to determine danger signs when you only rely on yourself.

In and Out
Just because you work in a freezing environment doesn’t mean you have to stay there the entire time. Take periodic brakes during your shift and spend them in a warm room or near heat sources. Even if schedules are tight, taking 15 minutes off your feet in a heated break room could save you from losing your feet forever.

Layer After Layer
When it comes to staying warm, less is definitely not more. When you wear several layers of thin clothing, you are actually staying warmer than if you wear one or two thick layers of clothes. The first layers touching your skin should be made from synthetic fabrics, like polypropylene, that absorb sweat. Outer layers should have fabrics that are waterproof and wind resistant.

It’s also important to wear proper equipment like warm gloves, boots, and a hat. If you become too warm, open a layer or two of your clothing, but not your gloves or hat. Also, make sure your gloves and boots are loose enough that they don’t cut off your blood circulation, which could speed up the frostbite.

Warm Eats and Warm Drinks
While coffee and hot coco are delicious and warm, the high caffeine concentration dehydrates you faster when cold conditions already put you at risk of dehydration. Instead, try sweeter beverages like sports drinks or orange juice. The natural carbs will give you a steady stream of energy and keep you hydrated longer. You can also bump up your carb intake by eating hot pasta dishes, soups, and other calorie-dense foods, which will keep your body fueled while its burning extra calories trying to stay warm.

Frostbite isn’t deadly, but can lead to amputation where you are unable to work if unattended. Stay warm this winter season with these helpful guidelines and avoid the silent but hazardous condition of frostbite.

Listen up! Protect Your Hearing

Hearing ProtectionFor many years, rockers and music enthusiasts would say, “If it’s too loud, you’re too old!” But in reality, if it’s too loud, you’re risking a valuable asset – your hearing.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that approximately 30 million people in the U.S. are exposed to hazardous noise at work, 125,000 workers suffer significant hearing loss, and 21,000 report cases of permanent hearing loss. Working around high levels of noise can cause permanent hearing loss. While it may not seem like an immediate threat, it can cause physical and psychological stress, reduce your productivity, and can make it more difficult to hear warning signals, which would make you more prone to other accidents.

Hearing damage can take time before you realize the effects, and by then, the damage could be irreversible. Neither surgery or a hearing aid can help correct conditions like tinnitus caused by hearing loss. Hear us out on these ways you can keep your workplace safe from seriously damaging noise.

Co-Worker, Can You Hear me?
How can you tell if you’re at risk of damaging your hearing at work? There are several warning signs to look out for when deciding whether or not your workplace is in danger of being too noisy. Notice how you feel after working a shift. Do you hear ringing or humming in your ears, or even temporary loss of hearing for a small period of time after work? You may get this type of feeling after attending a concert or major sporting event. If you experience it regularly at work, you may be in danger of damaging your hearing.

Also, take notice of how you communicate with your co-workers or managers. Do you have to shout to be heard by a colleague or boss who is only an arm’s length away? If you have to yell at people who are within a short distance of you, you may be at risk of working in an environment that is too loud.

Protection to Hear the Sound of Silence
While it’s always important to have effective hearing protection like earplugs or muffs, they shouldn’t be your only line of defense against hearing damage. There are several different grades of ear protection and you have to get the right kind of protection that best fits with your job and industry. Before you work in a noisy environment, check with your employer that you have the proper protective equipment.

What Can I Do?
There are a few simple things you can take to help reduce the noise in your workplace. One option is to use engineering controls that reduce sound exposure levels that can be installed or modified for loud equipment. This can be a relatively simple solution that can greatly reduce noise hazards. You can also do small things like making sure your equipment is properly lubricated, placing a barrier between you and the noise, or isolating or enclosing the noise source.

If machines at your workplace are naturally loud, your employer should have a hearing conservation program implemented. Get with your manager to find out if your employer has a plan. The plan can include precautions like operating loud machinery during shifts when fewer people will be exposed to it, limiting the time an employee can work on equipment, installing noise monitoring devices, or conducting periodical hearing tests. If you feel like your employer should implement a program, talk to your HR manager to find out what can be done.

Remember, hearing loss from extreme noise exposure can’t be repaired naturally or medically. Many famous musicians, engineers, and producers have destroyed the same tool that gained them career success. Don’t pay the same price for a successful career.

Now You See it, Now You Don’t Without Eye Safety

Eye SafetySince October is Eye Injury Prevention month, it’s important to keep your eyes protected. You only have one pair of eyes. Those are the last two you’ve got. Even with the advances in modern medicine, doctors and surgeons won’t be able to give you new working eyes.

With an estimated 2,000 U.S. workers suffering a job-related eye injury that requires medical treatment, accidents aren’t always caused by big, sharp objects that cause one big blow. Most of the time, eye injuries occur from tiny specs of metal, particles of dust, or traces of chemicals that can cause irreversible damage.

To help you steer clear of dangerous eye activities, here are some useful tips to make sure your eyes are properly protected so you can see in the days ahead of you.

Not Any Coverings Will Do
Different jobs and industries need different kinds of eye protection. Your employer should have provided or informed you about the kind of eye protection you should wear, when you should wear it, and where you should wear it. If your employer isn’t enforcing or instructing you on what kinds of eye protection to use, do not start on the job until you are properly equipped. You can check with the Occupational Safety and Health Association for a guide on proper eye and face protection.

It’s important to remember that contact lenses were not designed to provide eye protection. Also, it is a good idea to have a pair of prescription glasses ready if you need to take out your contact lenses. Contact wearers will find getting particles in the eye is a painful annoyance that distracts them from their job, which can lead to more dangers.

Fit to Prevent
It’s important that your protective gear properly fits your eyes and face. If they are too crooked, tight, uncomfortable, or loose, you’ll be more inclined not to wear them. While you may have a busy schedule, there is always time to properly adjust your protective equipment. It’s also important to keep your eye protection clean and properly kept. Scratches, smudges, and dirt can impair your vision and possibly put you in even more danger. Therefore, it’s important to store the equipment in a case to avoid scratches and stretching out the elastic in most headbands. Wash your gear with warm, soapy water and dry with a soft cloth or tissue.

Two Wrongs Don’t Help Your Sight
Never try to remove foreign substances, other than contact lenses, from your eyes. Also, refrain from removing a foreign material from the eye of a co-worker. Playing doctor generally makes the condition worse. Contact your employer’s medical department, a doctor, or an ambulance right away for treatment of an eye injury. You should also familiarize yourself with the company policies and procedures should any accident occur and follow those to the best of your ability.

Mean Computer Screens
Eye injuries can happen to anyone, even in an office setting. While injuries may not be immediate, constant viewing of a computer screen causes eye strain that can lead to serious injuries in the long run if not properly taken care of. It’s even more dangerous today since many people who work all day in front of a computer screen generally go home to spend personal time in front of a computer or television screen.

That’s why it’s important to give your eyes a break throughout the day. When you get up every few hours, make sure you blink your eyes or use eye drops to keep them properly lubricated and refocus your eyes on different objects at different distances to give them a rest.

If you have any doubts about whether you should be wearing eye protection, talk to your supervisor. Your eyes are the only two you will ever have. With these guidelines, you’ll be better equipped to avoid injury and enjoy the beauties of eyesight.

Drive to Survive With Forklift Safety

Worker practicing forklift safetyYou get to drive a forklift at work. How awesome is that – you’re behind the wheel of a 14,000 pound beast that can lift an average of one to five tons. The warehouse is your highway. But, with such great power comes the potential danger that could possibly injure or kill you or those around you.

There are nearly 100 fatalities and more than 95,000 injuries every year from accidents while operating forklifts. According to the Industrial Truck Association, 90% of all forklifts will be involved in some type of accident during their useful life. With so much power and likely danger at your fingertips, here are some ways you can stay safe while operating forklifts.

Before You Start Your Engines
Being properly trained in operating a forklift should be done before ever climbing into one. It’s illegal for anyone younger than 18 to operate a forklift, and some states require proper training and certification before anyone can operate a lift truck. Make sure you have all of the proper qualifications before handling heavy equipment. If you don’t, get with your supervisor to set up training times.

Your employer should also have a checklist of things to look for before starting a forklift. Things like fuel/battery power levels, tire conditions, control panel testing, etc. should be checked before every shift and logged. If anything isn’t working properly, make sure a manager knows immediately. Also, honk your horn to make sure it works, check to see if safety lights are working, and confirm the backup alert works once you have cleared everything else.

Know Where to Go
You really need to see where you are going. Make sure your path is always clear, dry, and open. Some forklifts can be going 10 mph, which takes about 22 feet to come to a complete stop. That’s why you don’t want to have anybody between the forklift and a hard surface like a table, bench, or wall. The same goes for passing a slower forklift. You don’t know what’s ahead and you might not have the stopping distance to avoid a collision.

If the load blocks your view, drive in reverse unless you’re going up a slope. In that case, have a spotter with you on the side to help guide you. The spotter shouldn’t be in the forklift with you because that extra weight can cause the forklift to tip over, which is the most common forklift accident.

Maneuvering slopes and inclines can be tricky when operating forklifts. If you come to an incline with a load, always travel with the load pointing uphill. But if you don’t have a load, always travel with the forks pointing downhill.

You’ll Take the Slow Road, and I’ll Take the Low Road
Almost every worker faces deadlines and time limits for projects, but that doesn’t mean you can cut corners – literally. Always turn corners slowly and honk your horn so anyone on the other side will know you’re coming. Honking the horn should be done when entering or exiting any area like going from outside to inside or going through any open doorways in order to access a different part of the building. You may be in a rush, but quick corners lead to quick tipovers and serious injuries.

Another way of keeping your forklift from tipping over is to keep your forks as low to the ground as possible when moving. Keeping the weight of your lift toward the bottom will give you a better center of gravity and more stability.

Forklifts can be a very useful and necessary tool to do your job, but remember these safety lessons so that you can keep riding your forklift free of injury and danger.