A Message from the CEO

27. April 2015

Julius Griggs, CEO

Hello and welcome back.

We are staying extremely busy and hope you are too.

There is some good information below, so enjoy.

Also, while many of you already get our Safety Matters Weekly, we are thinking of adding a Spanish version of our Weekly Safety Meetings and our Safety Tip of the Week.

Let us know if that is something you would like to see.

Be safe and see you next month.

Sincerely, 

Julius P Griggs

Julius P. Griggs
President and CEO
Safety Unlimited, Inc.

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Tornado Preparedness and Response for the Workplace

14. April 2015
Emergency Plan

Because tornadoes often occur with little or no warning, taking precautions in advance can help employees stay safe from these storms when in the workplace. Precautions should include learning the warning signs that a tornado is imminent, monitoring tornado watches and warnings, and, most importantly, developing an emergency plan. Response after a tornado has occurred is also important since workers may face signficant hazards when dealing with the effects of the tornado.

To prepare for a tornado, businesses should develop an emergency plan. The plan should include details on suitable places to take shelter, procedures to ensure that all personnel are accounted for, the establishment of an alarm system to warn workers, customers, and visitors, and the means for dealing with any hazardous materials onsite.

A checklist is a common tool to ensure that emergency preparations are complete. Employers should consider a checklist of items for basic disaster safety supply kits as well as a checklist for tornado safety. The Red Cross offers a tornado safety checklist that is useful to post or disseminate to employees.

After a tornado, as businesses try to recover from the effects of the storm, workers may face significant hazards including the potential for additional storms, downed electrical wires, and sharp debris. There may also be hazards resulting from heat stress and equipment used in response and recover operations. You'll find it useful to check out the list of potential hazards and general precautions provided by OSHA for dealing with a tornado's aftermath.

Employers should keep in mind that they are responsible for the safety and health of their workers and are required to protect workers from aniticpated hazards associated with response and recovery operations.

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Injury Costs Workers More than Time

13. April 2015
Workplace inuries

A workplace injury results in a variety of costs, including lost productivity, insurance claims and medical expenses, worker's compensation, new worker training, but they also cost the worker, too.

How do injuries cost the worker?

Each state's worker compensation system was intended to have employer-provided insurance reimburse workers for lost wages and provide medical coverage. However, legislation is gradually shifting the burden of coverage away from employers to the state, private health insurance, the federal government, and ultimately the injured worker. Based on a 2012 article in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine on the shifting costs for occupational injury and illness, worker's compensation still covers roughly 21% of costs. However, the worker is saddled with a whopping 50% of the burden.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a worker earns 15% less over the 10 years following a workplace injury than they would have had they avoided the injury, with an average of $31,000 over that time. Shockingly, this figure applies to workers that receive worker compensation.

Much of the problem lies in the fact that injured workers either do not apply for worker's compensation or receive very little in response to their request. Compensation for low-income and immigrant workers is even lower..

Who Does This Cost Shift Benefit?

It goes without saying that those who benefit from moving the burden of injury costs to the injured worker and social insurance programs benefit unsafe employers. Unsafe employers bear less risk for not properly training and equipping workers for their jobs. The obvious course of action is to hold these employers accountable for their violations.

Unfortunately, federal regulators do not have the manpower to investigate every workplace to ensure they are providing the necessary training and equipment. So it is up to employees to bring unsafe work practices to the attention of OSHA. However, before you reach out to OSHA you should discuss any safety concerns you might have with your employer. If your employer does nothing to address these concerns, they may be in violation of the General Duty Clause, which states that your employer is required to protect workers from all workplace hazards as best as possible.

Your Whistleblower Rights

You may wonder what risks you might be taking by contacting OSHA or approaching your employer about safety concerns you may have at your workplace. If you bring them up, your employer may punish you in some form for addressing a concern they prefer to ignore.

So what concerns should you have with regard to addressing what you consider a hazardous workplace situation? In a word: none. Workers are protected from their employers by Whistleblower Rights. If you bring up safety concerns, contact OSHA, or in some way act to protect yourself and others on the job, your employer cannot retaliate in any manner, such as firing, reduced or withheld wages, or any other form of punishment.

Further Reading

If you'd like to learn more about worker compensation and who bears the brunt when workers are injured, read OSHA's informational document Adding Inequality to Injury: The Costs of Failing to Protect Workers on the Job.

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Distracted Driver Awareness

13. April 2015

Distracted driving

Have you ever read or sent a text message while driving and then had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting another car? Or have you missed an exit or turn because you were distracted by a phone call? It only takes seconds for a crash to happen. According to the National Safety Council, our “brains on technology” is a risky combo for drivers. Distracted driving makes crashes all the more likely.

Each day in the United States, more than 9 people are killed and more than 1,153 people are injured in crashes that are reported involving a distracted driver. Eighty percent of American drivers believe hands-free devices are safer than using a handheld phone. But that is just not the case. More than 30 studies show hands-free devices are no safer because the brain remains distracted by the conversation. When talking on a cell phone, drivers can miss seeing up to half of what's around them, such as traffic lights, stop signs, and pedestrians. 

Distracted driving is driving while doing another activity that takes your attention away from driving. Distracted driving can increase the chance of a motor vehicle crash.

There are three main types of distraction:

  • Visual: taking your eyes off the road;
  • Manual: taking your hands off the wheel; and
  • Cognitive: taking your mind off of driving.

Distracted driving activities include things like using a cell phone, texting, and eating. Using in-vehicle technologies (such as navigation systems) can also be sources of distraction. A recent AAA Foundation in-car study showed that teen drivers were distracted almost a quarter of the time they were behind the wheel. While any of these distractions can endanger the driver and others, texting while driving is especially dangerous because it combines all three types of distraction.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is leading the effort to stop texting and cell phone use behind the wheel. Since 2009, the department has held two national distracted driving summits, banned texting and cell phone use for commercial drivers, encouraged states to adopt tough laws, and launched several campaigns to raise public awareness about the issue.

To avoid distracted driving, the National Safety Council recommends the following:

  • Turn off your cell phone, or put it on silent, before driving;
  • Pre-set your navigation system and music playlists before driving;
  • Tell coworkers, family, and friends not to call or text you when they know you’re driving;
  • Start all conference calls by asking if anyone is driving, and have them call back when they are in a safe location;
  • Install an app on your phone that disables it while your vehicle is in motion;
  • Ask a passenger to answer incoming calls and say, “You’ll call back when not driving”; and
  • Change your voicemail greeting to tell people that you may be driving and you’ll call them back when you can safely do so.

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National Youth Sports Safety Month

13. April 2015

We love to allow our children to stay active, compete, or develop social skills through outdoor activities such as sports. But children who are unprepared or have inappropriate protection from the hazards they face can sustain injuries that take them out of the game and possibly linger or recur over the course of their lifetime.

No parents want their child to be in danger, and we generally don’t consider sports as dangerous when compared to driving a vehicle or playing with unprotected electrical outlets. But engaging in competitive physical activity does come with risks, such as sprains, strains, concussions, damage to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), and others.

According to statistics from the Stop Sports Injuries Youth Sport Injuries Statistics Page:

  • High school athletes account for around 2 million injuries, 500,000 doctor visits, and 30,000 hospitalizations every year;
  • More than 3.5 million children under age 14 receive medical treatment for sports injuries each year;
  • Children ages 5-14 account for nearly 40% of all sports-related injuries treated in hospitals--both the rate and severity of injury increase with age;
  • And much more.

The obvious question is: how can we protect them from harm?

As with your job, there’s danger everywhere. But you can protect yourself through knowledge of its existence and taking the appropriate precautions to protect yourself. The same applies to children engaged in sports.

The risks children face can be general or specific to their sport. General risks can include heat illness, strains or sprains, dehydration, and more. For specific sports, such as baseball, soccer, football, tennis, hockey, etc., you’ll want to be sure you have the appropriate protective equipment.

The Stop Sports Injuries website provides a wealth of resources you can use to ensure your child can play their sports and do so with their own safety and the safety of other children in mind. These include registering or attending youth sports safety events, connecting with youth sports safety organizations in your area, and more. The website also offers a variety of Tip Sheets to prevent injuries common to specific sports (e.g., baseball, soccer, swimming, etc.) as well as methods to prevent general injury or illness.

Other resources you may consult include:

As with our extracurricular activities, so it is with workplace safety: it is our responsibility to educate ourselves about the hazards we face and how to protect ourselves from them to ensure a safe and healthful work and play environment. Injuries as a result of playing sports are inevitable. However, we can minimize their risk through preparation and appropriate protection so children can focus on the game rather than recovery.

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A Message from the CEO

20. March 2015

Julius Griggs, CEO

Hello and welcome back.

Boy, I cannot believe the first quarter is almost done. This year is flying by.

A lot of good things are coming up, so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, we are getting more and more subscribers to our Safety Matters Weekly blog. If you do not know about it yet, let Seymour Safety tell you all about it.

Oh, and in case you had not heard, we released our Online Nursing Continuing Education Courses.

Enjoy the reading below and see you next month with some new items.

Sincerely,

Julius P Griggs

Julius P. Griggs

President and CEO

Safety Unlimited, Inc.

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Fit-testing and Facial Hair

19. March 2015

Facial hair is an expression of individuality, and sometimes, religious beliefs. Nonetheless, facial hair interferes with face mask seals. Both facial hair and long hair can come between the seal on a facepiece and allow contaminated air in.

Fortunately, fit tests are conducted prior to an employee’s placement at a job, and every year thereafter. This 15-20 minute test determines the effectiveness of the seal between the respirator facepiece and the face.

As an employee, you have the right to the best protection possible. If a certain respirator or facepiece does not fit, per OSHA fit-testing procedures, your company should offer a selection so you can find one that fits. Once you have found the best fitting equipment for your face, you will use that same make, model, style, and size on the job.

Additionally, fit tests consistently prove that clean shaven faces create the best respirator face seal. The increase in protection is about 300 times greater for clean shaven employees compared to their counterparts.

Health and safety should be the primary concern for individuals who wear negative-pressure face masks and their employers. Any leakage into the facepiece would allow exposure to hazardous chemicals, and should be prevented.  Therefore, avoiding facial hair while wearing a respirator is more than a personal preference: it may help save your life.

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National Work Zone Awareness Week

16. March 2015

Whether you're a commuter driving in your own vehicle, a commercial driver in a semi, or a construction worker driving a dump truck or other vehicle, it's important to obey the traffic laws, and drive safely and intelligently while on the road. It's even more important to do so in construction zones where traffic can bottleneck, tensions can rise, and traffic accidents can not just affect yourself and other drivers, but workers on the site as well.

The Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW) takes place on March 23-27, as the snow melts and the construction season gets under way. During this time, let's try to remember some safety rules and tips to keep you, your fellow drivers, and the workers trying to repair the roads you use every day, safe.

Over the past 5 years, crashes in work zones have resulted in 4,400 deaths and 200,000 injuries. Fatal work zone crashes occur most often in the summer or fall, when construction is at its peak, and usually involve working-age adults.

In order to improve your safety, the safety of other drivers, and construction worker safety, we've provided a few tips from the FHWA:

  • Stay alert; minimize distractions
  • Turn on headlights
  • Pay attention to the road
    • Read the road signs for instructions and warnings
    • Watch for brake lights
  • Merge into the proper lane
    • Merge well before the lane closure rather than swerving or forcing your way into traffic at the last moment
  • Don't tailgate
  • Obey the posted speed limit
    • It only takes 25 more seconds to cover one mile at 45 mph than it does at 65 mph
    • Fines are often doubled for moving traffic violations
  • Follow flagger instructions
  • Be prepared for the unexpected
    • Workers, work vehicles, or equipment may enter your lane without warning
    • Other vehicles may slow, stop, or change lanes unexpectedly
  • Be patient

Remember, traffic violation fines are often doubled in construction zones. Why? Because workers on construction sites depend on your ability to drive safely and within the confines of the law to keep them safe. When you're driving through a work zone or construction site, you are not only protecting yourself and other drivers through careful driving, you're also protecting the workers in the area who trust you to follow safe driving rules.

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Spring Cleaning Safety

6. March 2015

Spring cleaning safety is not normally on people's minds when they begin to haul out all those cleaning supplies and equipment, but it should be. It is also a great time to check if your safety plans are in place and your safety equipment is in working order.

Below are a few hints that will help you, your families, and colleagues stay healthy and make your surroundings more pleasant.

Smoke alarms that are properly installed and maintained play a vital role in reducing fire deaths and injuries. If there is a fire in your home, smoke spreads fast and you need smoke alarms to give you time to get out. Having a working smoke alarm cuts the chances of dying in a reported fire in half. Almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.

Get rid of expired medicines properly and make sure your first aid kit is up to date with supplies. Springtime is also a good time to practice your family emergency plan. Taking time with these simple tips can help your family stay safe all year round.

Every day we need to be careful when going about our household chores, but when you really start tearing the house apart and moving things around during spring cleaning, especially with all those cleaning supplies and equipment out, it is doubly important to keep safety in mind. Make sure you’re practicing safe laundry habits. Laundry safety is a key step to prevent accidents in your home. If single-loaded liquid laundry packets are your go-to, always keep them safely away from children, out of reach, or locked in cabinets and drawers.

Springtime is also a good time to practice your family emergency plan. Meet with your family to discuss how to prepare for different types of emergencies, such as fire, severe weather, floods, or other common hazards in your community. Your plan will help family members understand what to do during emergencies.

Spring means flower buds and blooming trees — and if you're one of the millions of people who have seasonal allergies, it also means sneezing, congestion, runny nose and other bothersome symptoms. And if you’re traveling during your spring break, remember, allergens travel with you wherever you go. Don’t forget to continue taking your medication while you’re traveling and be ready to handle an allergy attack since you’ll be exposed to more allergens than normal.

Spring can be a time to celebrate warmer temperatures and sunshine; however, it's important to be aware of hazards related to spring such as flooding, dangerous driving conditions, pedestrians, working outdoors, and storm-related weather.

Discussing safety related topics about spring hazards is a great way to help everyone stay safe and working.

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Window Safety

5. March 2015

You probably won't be surprised to learn that unintentional falls are the number one cause of non-fatal injury for children. But you might be surprised to find out that 3,300 children under the age of 5 are injured in falls from windows annually in the U.S. and that 4,700 children 14 and under are treated in hospital emergency rooms annually for injures sustained from falling out of windows. An average of 18 children 10 and under die from such falls each year.

These numbers have prompted legislative action such as the New York City health code requirement that owners of buildings of three or more apartments provide and properly install approved window guards on all windows in any apartment where a child 10 or under resides and in each hallway window. In Minnesota, after a one year old climbed atop a piece of furniture, pushed open a screen, and fell four stories (and survived with no permanent injuries), the state passed "Laela's Law" aimed at protecting children from falls from windows in newly constructed buildings by developing residential window safety requirements.

National Window Safety Week is the first week in April. It's designed to heighten awareness of window safety and to prevent falls and injuries in the home where most falls from windows occur. The National Safety Council recommends the following for fall prevention:

  • Keep windows closed and locked when children are around;
  • When opening windows for ventilation, open those windows that children can't reach;
  • Don't rely on insect screens to prevent falls; and
  • Keep furniture away from windows.
These tips, along with window guards and safer screens, can help cut down on thousands of injuries to young children.
 
You can learn about National Window Safety week at the National Safety Council website and get tips on window safety, and fall safety in general, at the Safe Kids Worldwide website.

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