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Did you know in the United States that cloud-to-ground lightning happens 20 to 25 million times a year? Even with such frequency, for some reason, lightning is overlooked too often as an occupational hazard. It doesn’t get the attention of other deadly weather storms, such as hurricanes, floods or tornadoes, because it doesn’t result in mass destruction or mass casualties. But anybody working outdoors in open spaces, on or near tall objects or near explosives or conductive materials have a significant risk to being struck by lightning.

In a typical year, the central Ohio Valley, including Indiana, sees some of the most frequent lightning activity across the United States. Summertime is the peak season for lightning and a great time to educate your employees about lightning and what precautions should be taken to prevent worker exposure to this dangerous natural force.

Lightning 101 – When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!

  • Lightning can strike as far as 25 miles away from its parent thunderstorm – much farther out from the area of rainfall within the storm.
  • Thunderstorms always include lightning – any thunder you hear is caused by lightning.
  • Nowhere outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area.
  • If you hear thunder, you are within striking distance.
  • Seek safe shelter and stay there until 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder.
  • Don’t use corded phones as this is one of the leading causes of indoor lightning injuries – cordless and cell phones are safe to use as long as they are not being charged.
  • Stay away from windows and doors.
  • Don’t touch electrical equipment or cords as anything using electricity is susceptible to a lightning strike.
  • Avoid plumbing as metal plumbing and the water inside are both very good conductors of electricity.
  • Refrain from touching concrete surfaces – lightning can travel through the metal wires and bars in concrete walls and flooring, such as in a basement or garage.

Remember, there is no safe place outside during a thunderstorm, so seek full-enclosed, substantial buildings with interior wiring and plumbing as these will act as an earth ground. But what if workers are caught outdoors?  These are National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) recommendations to decrease the risk of being struck:

  • Lightning will likely strike the tallest objects in the area, so make sure it’s not you.
  • Avoid such things as isolated tall trees, hilltops, utility poles, cell phone towers, cranes, large equipment, ladders, scaffolding or rooftops.
  • Avoid open areas, such as fields, and never lie flat on the ground.
  • If you must be near trees, find a dense area of smaller trees that are surrounded by larger trees or retreat to low-lying areas.
  • Avoid water – immediately get out of and away from such places as pools, lakes or oceans.
  • Avoid wiring, plumbing and fencing as lightning can travel long distances through metal.

Many people often wonder about the safety of their own vehicle during lightning. There have been enough reported incidences and injuries to know the myth of being completely safe in a car is just that - a myth. If you find yourself in your car during a lightning storm, it is best to pull off to the side of the road, turn on your emergency blinkers, turn off the engine and put your hands on your lap until the storm passes. Do not touch door or window handles, radio dials, CB microphones, gearshifts, steering wheels and other inside-to-outside metal objects.

On the other hand, heavy equipment, such as backhoes, bulldozers, loaders, graders, scrapers and mowers, which have an enclosed rollover system canopy (ROPS) are considered safe, so you should shut down the equipment, close the doors and sit with hands in lap until the storm has passed. Smaller equipment without ROPS, such as small riding mowers, golf carts and utility wagons, are not safe, and you should leave these vehicles for safe shelter.

Employers have a legal obligation to provide a safe workplace for their employees, which includes but is not limited to having an Emergency Action Plan that addresses lightning safety protocol for outdoor workers, posting information about lightning safety at outdoor worksites and offering safety training to their employees. Workplace Safety & Health Co. is here to help you keep your employees safer in thunderstorms and in all kinds of weather. 

High cholesterol and high blood pressure are more common among workers exposed to loud noise at work, according to a NIOSH study recently published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine. Researchers found that a quarter of U.S. workers reported a history of noise exposure at work.

NIOSH researchers analyzed data from the 2014 National Health Interview Survey to estimate the prevalence of occupational noise exposure, hearing difficulty, and heart conditions within U.S. industries and occupations. The researchers also examined the association between workplace noise exposure and heart disease.

Read entire article - https://ohsonline.com/articles/2018/03/23/cdc-study-shows-association-between-noise-exposure-and-heart-disease-risk-factors.aspx

 

National Safety Month is observed annually every June to promote safety throughout the country and focus on reducing leading causes of death at work, on the road and in our homes and communities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics(BLS), nearly 5200 American workers died while doing their job in 2016.  That averages to more than 14 people per day! It’s a 7 percent increase from 2015, and it’s the first time in nearly a decade the number has surpassed 5000. 

More workers lost their lives in transportation incidents than any other event in 2016, accounting for about one out of every four fatal injuries. Workplace violence injuries increased by 23 percent, which made it the second most common cause of workplace fatality. With the nation’s opioid crisis, drug abuse and deaths have entered the workplace at an alarming rate.  A BLS’s report from December showed the number of overdoses on the job increased by 32 percent in 2016, and the number of drug-related fatalities has increased by at least 25 percent annually since 2012. Even though these three are significant, workplace deaths are increasing percentage-wise among many different demographics. 

Safety in the workplace is vital, and employers must take bigger steps to encourage and increase workplace safety. Here are some basic ways employers can help ensure the safety of all workers:

Staff Training

Employees may roll their eyes when they are required to attend regularly scheduled safety trainings, but proper training is a necessity – not only for your employees’ safety, but you will be held liable for the incidences. During these trainings, encourage your employees to share ideas on how to improve safety.  One great topic for a staff training – first aid training. 

Develop a Workplace Safety and Health Plan

Identifying hazards in your workplace and taking steps to eliminate or minimize them are great first steps in keeping work spaces safer, but also take it further by developing a safety plan listing such hazards, telling your employees what you will do to ensure their safety and what you expect from them. Make sure your employees have access to a first aid kit and the AED equipment.

Inspect Your Workplace

Regularly scheduled workplace inspections are very important. Check tools and equipment to make sure they are well maintained and safe. Make sure your workplace is relatively clean and clutter-free. When properly carried out, these inspections can help you proactively identify and address hazards before they cause safety issues.

Reward Safety

Are you rewarding employees for completely a job before deadlines, under budget or high productivity? This mentality to get it done quickly could compromise safety. Why not reward those who have followed all your safety rules and have consistently provided efficient work? This puts the emphasis on safety instead of productivity.

Want more ideas on how to promote a safer work environment? Contact us at Workplace Safety & Health, Inc. at 317-253-9737.

Millions of workers are exposed to noise in the workplace every day and when uncontrolled, noise exposure may cause permanent hearing loss. Research demonstrates exposure to certain chemicals, called ototoxicants, may cause hearing loss or balance problems, regardless of noise exposure. Substances including certain pesticides, solvents, and pharmaceuticals that contain ototoxicants can negatively affect how the ear functions, causing hearing loss, and/or affect balance.

Read entire article - https://www.osha.gov/dts/shib/shib030818.html

It’s been a long winter – and a cold spring, but summer is just around the corner, which means hot weather is on its way. For the many people exposed to higher temperatures as part of their job duties, it’s time to review how to prevent heat-related illnesses (HRI’s). Every year, thousands of workers in the United States suffer from serious HRI’s, which if not addressed can quickly turn from heat exhaustion to heat stroke, which has killed on average 30 people every year since 2003. Jobs that are at a higher risk of HRI’s include, but are not limited to, firefighters, bakery workers, farmers, construction workers, miners, boiler room workers and factory workers.

You might wonder how does excessive heat affect the body? Our bodies usually maintain a stable internal temperature by circulating blood to the skin and through sweating, but when the outside temperature is close to or even warmer than normal body temperature, sweat may not be able to evaporate, so it’s less effective. If the body cannot get rid of the excess heat, it stores it, which causes an increase in core temperature and heart rate. If the body continues to store heat, you begin to lose concentration and have difficulty focusing, you may become irritable or sick and lose your desire to drink. The next stage is most often fainting and even possibly death. The body temperature can rise to 106 degrees or higher within 10 to 15 minutes!

Five Categories of Heat-Related Illnesses

  1. Heat Rash – caused by skin being constantly wet from sweat and plugged sweat glands (raised, red blistery rash)
  2. Heat Cramps – caused by excessive loss of water and electrolytes, with cramps occurring in the legs and abdomen
  3. Heat Syncope – caused by prolonged standing or sudden rising from a sitting or laying position (includes fainting or dizziness)
  4. Heat Exhaustion – symptoms are pale skin, excessive sweating, headache, nausea and vomiting, blurred vision and dizziness, with the potential for fainting
  5. Heat Stroke – symptoms are dry hot skin and a very high body temperature, skin is red but without sweat, and the person is incoherent or unconscious

Preventative Actions to Protect Employees

  • Train and educate workers and supervisors on risk factors and early warning signs of HRI’s
  • Provide cool drinking water near work areas and promote regular hydration before feeling thirsty
  • Monitor temperature and humidity levels near work areas – incorporate a variety of engineering controls that can reduce workers’ exposure to hear including air conditioning, increase general ventilation, cooling fans, local exhaust ventilation, reflective shields to redirect radiant heat, insulation of hot surfaces, and elimination of steam leaks
  • Implement a heat management program, so everyone knows what to do in the event of an emergency
  • Allow workers to distribute the workload evenly over the day, to rotate job functions and incorporate work/rest cycles, including if possible to allow heavier work scheduled for cooler times of the day
  • Use the “buddy system” to monitor worker conditions
  • Use safety supplies such as special cooling devices when using certain personal protective equipment
  • Acclimate workers by exposing them for progressively longer periods of time to hot work conditions

Hot Weather Safety Tips for Employees

  • Stay hydrated – drink plenty of fluids
  • Avoid dehydrating liquids, including alcohol, coffee, tea and caffeinated soft drinks
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored and loose-fitting clothing when possible
  • Pace yourself and schedule frequent breaks in a shaded or air-conditioned area
  • Use a damp rag to wipe your face or put around your neck
  • Avoid direct sun and getting sunburnt – use sunscreen and wear a hat
  • Be alert for signs of HRI’s
  • Eat smaller meals – eat fruits high in fiber and natural juices and avoid high protein foods

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