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Posted by on in Uncategorized

With the wide temperature swings we’ve had here in the Midwest this spring, sometimes it can be hard to believe that summer and the heat-related health and safety concerns it brings is nearly here.

To draw attention to this fact, some states observe a Heat Safety Awareness or Heat Awareness Day each year in the mid- to late spring each year. Being aware of the health and safety risks posed by exposure to heat in the workplace is a year-round concern.

Heat stress related injuries are often the result of the body’s inability to cope with prolonged exposure to extreme heat. It is of particular concern during the hot summer months, particularly for people who work in factories, in construction, or in agriculture. In its materials – fact sheets, posters, quick cards, training guides, and wallet cards – OSHA makes it clear that workers at risk include anyone who is exposed to hot and humid conditions, especially anyone performing heavy work tasks and/or using bulky personal protective equipment. Those at greater risk of heat stress include people 65 years of age or older, those who are overweight, have heart disease or high blood pressure, or who take medications that can be affected by extreme heat.

Prevention of heat stress in employees is as important as any aspect of safety plan design. Employers need to train to workers to understand what heat stress is, how it affects their health and safety, and how it can be prevented. Heat can also indirectly lead to other injuries by causing sweaty palms and dizziness. With summer on our doorstep, now is a good time to review how your workplace safety plans address employee heat exposure through engineering controls and preventive work practices.

OSHA makes it clear that employers are responsible for providing workplaces that are safe from excessive heat. That can also include furnishing workers with water, rest and shade, as well as education about the symptoms of heat-related illnesses and their prevention. For example, being able to “take the heat” is a gradual process, and some workers might be at greater risk than others if they have not yet built up a tolerance to hot conditions. For those reasons, OSHA recommends allowing more frequent breaks for new workers or workers who have been away from the job for a week or more in order to acclimatize to conditions.

For its part, the agency is continuing its nationwide campaign to raise awareness and educate employers and workers on the hazards of working in the heat, along with steps to take in preventing heat-related illnesses and death. The message contained in the campaign’s slogan “Water, Rest, Shade” has already reached nearly 11 million people since it began in 2011, according to OSHA.

Worksite training and plans should also address the steps to take both to prevent heat illness and what to do in an emergency. Prompt, proper action really can save lives.

OSHA's main safety points for people who work in hot environments are:
•Drink water every 15 minutes, even if you're not thirsty.
•Rest in the shade to cool down.
•Wear a hat and light-colored clothing.
•Learn the signs of heat illness and what to do in an emergency.
•Keep an eye on fellow workers.

OSHA maintains a dedicated webpage, https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/heat_app.html, that includes a heat safety tool app, a training guide and lesson plan, and other resources all aimed at keeping worker health and safety risks low when the mercury starts to head skyward.

Occupational exposure to heat can result in injuries, disease, reduced productivity, and fatality. To address this hazard, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has evaluated the scientific data on heat stress and hot environments and has updated its Criteria for a Recommended Standard: Occupational Exposure to Hot Environments document.

The document was last updated in 1986, and in recent years, including during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill response of 2010, questions were raised regarding the need for revision to reflect recent research and findings.
In addition, there is evidence that heat stress is an increasing problem for many workers, particularly those located in densely populated areas closer to the equator where temperatures are expected to rise in relation to the changing climate.

The revision includes:
-Additional information about the physiological changes that result from heat stress;
-Updated information from relevant studies, such as those on caffeine use;
-Evidence to redefine heat stroke and associated symptoms; and
-Updated information on physiological monitoring and personal protective equipment and clothing that can be used to control heat stress.

Tagged in: OSHA

Posted by on in Uncategorized

Air Quality Awareness Week, usually held the last week of April, is an annual opportunity to engage communities in conversations on air pollution and health. Why do we need a themed week to draw our attention to something so basic? Maybe it’s because it’s free, or maybe it’s because we usually can’t see it, but we often take our air for granted. Air quality obviously is important for everyone, everywhere, and that includes the air in a work environment.

One measure of air quality, the Air Quality Index (AQI), can be used to help plan activities outdoors. Finding the day’s AQI report is becoming increasingly easy. It’s available on the Web (http://www.airnow.gov), on many local television weather forecasts, and via free e-mail tools and apps (http://www.enviroflash.info and http://m.epa.gov/apps/airnow.html). After finding the forecast for a local area, checking the health recommendations can show how to reduce the amount of pollution breathed in.

At Workplace Safety & Health Co., our primary concern is to help our customers reduce injuries and illnesses while promoting their profitability through sound health and safety management practices – and that includes helping to identify and manage risks posed by air quality. Whether your employees’ work environment is indoors, outdoors, or both, our consultants can determine your business's air quality exposures through monitoring, mapping, surveys and evaluations that include qualitative air contaminant hazard assessments, air monitoring, and quantitative air contaminant exposure assessment. Give us a call and breathe easier.

Tagged in: air quality

A recently published study from NIOSH examined hearing difficulty and tinnitus in various industries, based on data from the 2007 National Health Interview Survey. This provided detailed, self-reported information on hearing difficulty, tinnitus, and exposures to occupational noise. Some other findings are that:
-Seven percent of U.S. workers never exposed to noise on the job had hearing difficulty, 5 percent had tinnitus, and 2 percent had both conditions. Among workers who had at some point in their working careers been exposed to occupational noise, the prevalence was 23 percent, 15 percent, and 9 percent, respectively.

-Workers in agriculture, forestry, and the fishing and hunting industry had a significantly higher risk of hearing difficulty, tinnitus, and their co-occurrence. Manufacturing workers also had significantly higher risks for tinnitus and the co-occurrence of tinnitus and hearing difficulty.

-Workers in life, physical and social science occupations, and personal care and service occupations had significantly higher risks for hearing difficulty. Workers in architecture and engineering occupations also had significantly higher risks for tinnitus.

-Workers in sales and related occupations had significantly lower risks for hearing difficulty, tinnitus and their co-occurrence.

The study is the first to report prevalence estimates for tinnitus by U.S. industry sector and occupation and provide these estimates side by side with prevalence estimates of hearing difficulty, according to the agency. According to NIOSH, hazardous noise affects approximately 22 million U.S. workers.

Read entire article - http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/updates/upd-02-01-16.html

Tagged in: NIOSH

Posted by on in Uncategorized

Whether it’s on the way to-, from-, or for the purpose of work, reaching the destination safely involves the driver being focused on the task at hand: driving.

Over the past decade or so, distracted driving has emerged as a major public safety concern – as well it should. Distracted driving remains one of the main causes of transportation-related accidents. According to Distraction.gov, the federal government’s website on distracted driving, in 2013, 3,154 people in the U.S. were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. That’s a 6.7% decrease in the recorded number of fatalities from the previous year. However, approximately 3,000 more people were injured in 2013 compared to the 421,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes

April is Distracted Driving Awareness month, and the National Safety Council’s theme this year is “Take Back Your Drive.” One estimate by the NSC puts the number of crashes caused by cell phone use and texting while driving at 1.6 million each year. It’s easy to blame the devices themselves, but a growing body of research suggests that they are part of larger picture, one in which they are just another set of contributors to a state of mental distraction.

A newly published study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute seems to support this.1 In looking into which type of activity puts a driver at greater risk of being involved in a vehicle crash – a state of emotional agitation or performing activities such as using a hand-held cell phone – emotional agitation came out on top, researchers found. A person who is observably angry, sad, crying or emotionally agitated is almost 10 times more likely to experience a crash. The risk of a crash more than doubles when drivers perform activities that require them to take their eyes off the road, including reading emails or texts, or using a vehicle’s built-in touch screen.

Other research suggests that it isn’t the physical activity of operating a device (or devices) while driving that is the major cause for concern; rather, as some studies involving the use of hands-free cell phone use have shown, cognitive distraction caused by switching between language comprehension and processing the external cues needed to drive properly may be partly to blame.

It’s something to ponder – just maybe not when you’re behind the wheel.
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1. http://www.vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2016/02/022316-vtti-researchdistraction.html

Tagged in: Distracted driving

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