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What Is Safe + Sound Week? A nationwide event to raise awareness and understanding of the value of safety and health programs that include management leadership, worker participation, and a systematic approach to finding and fixing hazards in workplaces.

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Summer is in full swing, and that means some extremely warm weather! July and August are typically the hottest months of the year, and those who work outdoors are exposed to hours of the sun’s strong ultraviolet (UV) rays. In May’s blog, we discussed heat-related illnesses, but don’t forget another possible cause of too much sun. Since the sun is the primary cause of skin cancer, outdoor workers are at the highest risk. 
Even though cancers caused by a person’s work are generally taken seriously, skin cancer isn’t often thought of as an occupational disease. The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to minimize risk of harm to employees. 
According to the National Cancer Institute, people should protect themselves against skin cancer by:
Avoiding sun exposure as much as possible between 10am and 4pm
Wearing long sleeves, long pants and a hat that shades your face, ears, neck with a brim all around
Using broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15 and can filter both UVA and UVB rays
Wearing sunglasses that filter UV rays to protect your eyes and the skin around your eyes
Some of these steps may be difficult to follow if you are an outdoor worker, which includes such occupations as construction, agriculture and landscaping. Most work hours are during the heat of the day, so what steps can employers take to help protect their outdoor workers from the harmful UV rays?
Here are a few strategies to increase sun protection:
Schedule breaks in the shade and allow workers to reapply sunscreen throughout their shifts
Modify the work site by increasing the amount of shade available – tents, shelters, cooling stations
Create work schedules that minimize sun exposure – schedule outdoor tasks early morning or evening time and rotate workers to reduce their UV exposure
Add sun safety to workplace policies and trainings
Provide free sunscreen, uniforms that offer ample body coverage and UV-blocking sunglasses
In the United States, more people are diagnosed with skin cancer than all other forms of cancer combined with one in five Americans getting skin cancer by the age of 70. Every year, nearly 5 million people are treated for skin cancer in the U.S., which costs an estimate $8.1 billion annually. It’s in the employers’ best interests, and it’s an OSHA requirement, to keep their workers safe, including keeping them safe from the intense rays of the summer sun.

The Consumer Products and Safety Commission (CPSC) announced the recall of Honeywell Fibre-Metal E2 and North Peak A79 hard hats. These hats can fail to protect users from impact, posing a risk of head injury.

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a rise in work-related deaths in 2016 - 5,190 U.S. workers died on the job, 14 per day. This is the highest annual figure since 2008.

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Opioid prescriptions have nearly quadrupled since 1999 in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These pain killers are addictive, and that addiction has caused a rippling effect across our communities and in the workplace.

The latest numbers from CDC show that 64,070 people died from drug overdoses in 2016, a 21 percent increase over the year before. Approximately three-fourths of these deaths are now caused by opioids. While the opioid crisis is usually portrayed as a problem with the jobless population, some studies have shown that around two-thirds of those who report abusing painkillers are still employed.

Since 2012, the number of people dying from drug or alcohol related causes while on the job has been growing by at least 25 percent each year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While this statistic is striking, many others in the workplace right now are using prescription drugs to manage pain and not being able to perform to their potential. Around 70 percent of employers surveyed by the National Safety Council (NSC) have seen some impact of prescription drug use – from missed shifts to impaired work.

When a job involves heavy machinery, having mentally aware workers with fast reflexes is required to keep not only themselves safe, but those around them as well. Opioids hamper brain function and productivity, resulting in an increase in workplace accidents and workers’ compensation claims. According to a study, the opioid abuse costs businesses $16.3 billion in 2013 in disability claims and productivity, and medical costs for opioid abusers are close to twice that of non-abusers. Along these same lines, the average worker misses about 10 days per year, but those abusing pain medication or using heroin miss an average of 29 days of work per year (NSC).

The combination of lowered productivity, higher health care and substance abuse treatment costs, as well as missed work, add up to an economic burden of $78.5 billion, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC). To try to combat the drug crisis, many employers are turning to drug testing in pre-employment screening, but make sure the panels you are using include specific testing for opioids. 

Other than drug testing, employers can take a more proactive stance, including having an opioid use education component as part of their program. Another thought is to provide training for supervisors on the signs of abuse and knowing how to refer employees to their Employee Assistance Program (EAP), if applicable, or help them seek medical treatment. Some companies have used “lunch and learns” to discuss opioid abuse and mental health issues with employees, as well as promoting alternative pain management options, such as chiropractic or osteopathic manipulative treatments.

The opioid crisis is impacting our country in epidemic proportions, and the workplace is feeling the effects in many ways.


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