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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Healthy Aging in the Workplace

11. February 2015

Currently, 20% of all American workers are over 65. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, that number will jump to 25% in another five years. While safety and health are vital to every workplace, this shift in the age demographic of workers makes issues of healthier workers more pressing because with aging comes a greater likelihood of both chronic health conditions and on-the-job injury. It's important, then, to understand that appropriate programs and support in the workplace can help workers be productive longer.

The most common health conditions affecting older workers are arthritis and hypertension. The former impacts 47% of workers over the age of 55 and the latter, 44%. More than 75% of aging workers are estimated to have at least one chronic health condition that requires management. These figures have implications for both how well, and when, older workers can physically perform their duties.

Interestingly however, because of experience, increased caution, greater likelihood of following safety regulations, and awareness of relative physical limitations, older workers tend to experience fewer workplace injuries than younger colleagues. However, when accidents involving older workers do occur, the workers often require more time to heal and incidents affecting older workers are more likely to be fatal.

Employers increasingly see the value that older workers bring to the job. Older workers have greater institutional knowledge and usually more experience. They often possess more productive work habits than younger colleagues. They report lower stress levels on the job and, in general, get along better with their co-workers.

Workplaces have often, out of necessity, adapted to older workers. Both the Age Discrimination Employment Act of 1967 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibit workplace discrimination based on age and disability, respectively, and thus support the retention of older qualified workers despite limitations that may come from age or disability. However, some employers are more proactive than others, realizing that a well-designed, employee-centered approach to the  physical nature and organization of work benefits all workers regardless of age. Workplace design, flexibility of the work schedule, and ergonomic interventions increasingly focus on the needs of older employees. Many workplace accommodations are easy and inexpensive to make. Modern orthotics, appropriate flooring and seating, optimal lighting, and new information technology hardware and software can help older individuals continue to work. New emphasis on job sharing, flexible work schedules, and work from home can support added years on the job.

For some useful strategies for preparing a more age-friendly work environment, check out the CDC's webpage on Healthy Aging at Work.

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When and How to Wash Your Hands

15. January 2015

Did you know a recent study by the CDC found that only 35% of men and 65% of women washed their hands after using a public restroom? Per the CDC, there are up to a trillion bacteria in a single gram of stool. Handwashing with soap and clean water is the easiest and most effective way to stay healthy, yet, apparently, many people don’t think they need to wash their hands after using the toilet.

Good handwashing technique is simple enough for children to learn, and is taught because of its effectiveness in preventing infection. As we go through the day, we touch unclean surfaces. We transfer those germs, bacteria, and, possibly, diseases from our hands to other surfaces, including our own mouth and nose. We can do our part to help keep everyone healthy in our homes, offices, and worksites by simply improving our handwashing practices.

When should we wash our hands? Handwashing is a must BEFORE preparing food, eating, treating a wound, or inserting contact lenses. Handwashing is absolutely needed AFTER changing a dirty diaper, using the bathroom (for whatever reason), touching garbage or an animal, or sneezing/coughing into your hand or tissue. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer is an effective substitute if your hands are not visibly dirty, and you can’t access soap and water.

How should we wash our hands? According to the Mayo Clinic, there are 5 simple steps, but you can’t rush them:

1. WET – using clean water (hot water does not actually kill more germs);

2. LATHER – suds from under your fingernails to the bottom of your wrists with soap;

3. SCRUB – vigorously for twenty full seconds;

4. RINSE – using clean water; and

5. DRY – using a clean paper towel if available.

Furthermore, if you touch the sink or doorknob directly after washing, you have touched two of the dirtiest areas in a bathroom! To keep your hands clean, you can use a paper towel to turn off the water and open the door.

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Food Safety

11. November 2014

Thanksgiving is a time of celebration and family. For the fortunate, the tradition usually centers on a large banquet of food and beverages. Whether eating out or dining in, most consumers will not think twice about food safety before indulging in a smorgasbord of savory delights.

One would hope that whether eating in or out, the cooks have been diligent about food safety and preventing cross-contamination. Unsanitary food preparation can result in food poisoning: illness caused by a variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites, as well as toxins and contaminants. Foodsafety.gov is a great resource for double checking facts and finding information on the subject. Per the website, the four tenants of food safety are clean, separate, cook, and chill.

Food should be washed prior to eating, with the exception of meat, which the USDA does not recommend washing. Rinsing meat under water splashes bacteria all around the sink and counter area, where it can contaminate other foods. For fruits and veggies, a 1/3 part vinegar/water solution has been found 98% effective in a produce wash test. If you don’t wash your produce, it could contaminate the inside when sliced, since the bacteria – such as in the listeriosis cantaloupe outbreak – live on the outside.

Separate means keeping meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from ready-to-eat foods at all times: in the grocery cart, in the refrigerator, on the counter, and when plating. In the refrigerator, raw food and meat should be stored in the lowest compartment to prevent drips or leaks on cooked foods.  On the counter, raw meat and vegetables should have separate cutting boards and the veggies should be prepped first. Finally, always use a clean plate for cooked meat since raw meat juices or marinades will contaminate the cooked food.

To cook meat safely, it must be cooked to a minimum temperature that varies from around 145-165 °F. A meat thermometer must be used to test the internal temperature. Meat should never be left to thaw out on the counter, but instead defrosted in the refrigerator or microwave. Hot foods should be kept hot and not left out for more than 2 hours, and cold foods kept cold and kept on ice or under 40°F; keeping foods cold prevents the growth of bacteria. Meat and eggs should never be served undercooked.

More information on meat safety can be found on this website.

Following these food safety guidelines will help ensure that you and others have a safe and healthy Thanksgiving. Enjoy! 

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Farm Safety

3. October 2014

According to OSHA, agriculture ranks highly among the most dangerous industries. Between 2003 and 2011, 5,816 agricultural workers died from work-related injuries in the U.S. In 2011, the fatality rate for agricultural workers was 7 times higher than the rate for all workers in private industry, almost 25 deaths per 100,000 workers compared to 3.5 in private industry. Every day, more than 240 agricultural workers suffer a serious lost-work-time injury, 5 percent of which result in a permanent impairment; and the injury rate for agricultural workers is over 40 percent higher than the rate for all other workers.

The leading cause of death of farmworkers over the last two decades has been tractor overturns. Despite the fact that such deaths can be effectively prevented by the use of rollover protective structures, only 59% of tractors used on farms in the U.S. were equipped with these devices as late as 2006.

Because farming involves such a diverse set of activities and operations, farm workers are exposed to a wide range of hazards. They are at high risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries, work-related lung diseases, noise-induced hearing loss, skin diseases, and certain cancers associated with chemical use and prolonged sun exposure. Workers in orchards are exposed to hazards such falling objects, falls, and ladder-related injuries. Grain handling facilities such as elevators and mills that receive, handle, store, process, and ship bulk raw agricultural commodities are high hazards workplaces at which workers can be exposed to fires and explosions from grain dust accumulation, suffocation from engulfment and entrapment in grain bins, falls from heights, and crushing injuries and amputations from grain handling equipment.

Proper training, use, and maintenance of the proper equipment, and use of the right protection are, of course, key in preventing injuries from these diverse hazards.

Agricultural operations are covered by several OSHA Safety and Health standards, including Agriculture (29 CFR 1928), General Industry (29 CFR 1910), and the General Duty Clause. You can learn about these standards on the OSHA website.

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Child Passenger Safety

12. September 2014

Sept. 14-20, 2014 is Child Passenger Safety Week, and now is a great time to draw attention to the safety of our most precious cargo. Children depend on us to protect them and to ensure that their car seat is correctly fitted, installed, and secured. You owe it to your child to provide him or her a safe ride. Baby Center will help you find out which car seat your child needs by entering in their age, height, and weight, and provides you with your state’s laws.

Car accidents are the leading cause of death in children under 14. In most cases, proper car seat installation prevents one of the most injurious events that can happen to a person during a crash – ejection from the vehicle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that three in four car seats are incorrectly installed.

Although it is against the law, tragically, many lives are still lost needlessly when adults don’t ensure that their child passenger is properly fitted and secured in a car seat every time they ride. Children are much more at risk in a car crash because their bodies are smaller and their bones are still growing. Thus, they cannot endure as much of an impact as adults.

To have a Car Seat Installation Technician check or install your car seat free of charge, you can call your local fire department or search the Child Car Seat Inspection Station Locator. It will give you peace of mind knowing that a professional has inspected your child’s car seat.

If you have any questions, you can also call the DOT Vehicle safety hotline at 888-327-4236. It is better to be safe than sorry. Play it safe!

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UV Safety

15. July 2014

Did you know that skin cancer is the most common type of cancer found in the United States? The main cause of skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. UV rays can also damage the eyes and cause skin blotches and wrinkles.

July is UV Safety Month and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is urging communities, health professionals, and families to use the month to raise awareness of strategies for preventing skin cancer.

The best strategies for prevention are simple: Limit your time in the sun and wear sunscreen. To limit your exposure to UV rays, stay in the shade as much as possible between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and cover up with long sleeves, a hat, and sunglasses. When using sunscreen, use SPF 15 or higher and use one with both UVA and UVB protection. Sunscreen should be worn even on cloudy days since clouds do not prevent exposure to UV rays. Put your sunscreen on 30 minutes before you go outside, use enough to provide full coverage, and apply to your lips, ears, hands, feet, and the back your neck as well as the more obvious areas where you might burn. Reapply it every 2 hours and after you swim or sweat.

In addition to these strategies for protecting your skin, protecting your eyes from UV rays is important. When buying sunglasses, look for ones that block out at least 99% of both UVA and UVB radiation.

To learn more about skin cancer, skin cancer prevention, and resources available for UV Safety Month, check out the many useful links on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services healthfinder.gov website.

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Motor Vehicle Safety on the Job

16. June 2014

Did you know that motor vehicle-related incidents are consistently the leading cause of work-related fatalities in the United States? The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 36 percent of occupational fatalities are associated in some way with motor vehicles.

Over the eight year period ending in 2010, 1,275 workers died each year from crashes on public highways, 311 in crashes that occurred off the highway or on industrial premises, and 338 pedestrians died annually as a result of being struck by a motor vehicle driven by someone on the job.

Motor vehicle crashes are also the leading cause of work-related fatalities among young people (ages 16-24) in the United States.

In addition to the human costs, motor vehicle crashes have economic costs. The cost to employers of on and off the job motor vehicles crashes has been estimated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to be nearly 60 billion dollars annually, a fatality on the job costing employers over $500,000 and a non-fatal injury accident nearly $75,000.

Risk of work-related crashes cuts across all industries and occupations. Though workers who drive on the job may be professional drivers whose primary job it is to transport freight or passengers, many other workers spend a significant part of their workday driving a vehicle owned or leased by their employer or their own vehicle on work-related business. Companies and drivers that operate large trucks and buses are covered by comprehensive safety regulations, but there are no Federal occupation safety regulations that cover the workers who use smaller, employer-provided vehicles or personal vehicles.

So, for all workers who drive on the job, employer safety policies are a critical factor in the reduction of crash risks. Employer policies may be limited to supporting and reinforcing state traffic laws. However, many employers choose to manage risk more proactively through programs and policies to promote safe driving behaviors, ensure that work-related driving takes place under the safest possible conditions, and ensure that worker vehicles are safe and properly maintained. For employers who choose to manage driving risk more proactively, The Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) has published its Comprehensive Guide to Road Safety that provides a great starting point for companies large and small for implementing a road safety program.

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National Electrical Safety Month

13. May 2014
Electrical Safety

Did you know May is National Electrical Safety Month? The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), a non-profit dedicated to promoting electrical safety at home, at school, and in the workplace, leads an annual educational campaign about the steps that can be taken to reduce the number of electrically related fires, fatalities, injuries, and losses of property. This year's campaign features new and updated resources to facilitate an electrical awareness campaign for communities, organizations, workplaces, schools, and families. The resources include fact sheets, tips, templates, and tools to promote electrical safety.

The ESFI believes that raising awareness of electrical hazards is the key to reducing electrical fires, injuries, and death. To help raise awareness, they have published the 2014 National Electrical Safety Month Electrical Safety Advocate Guide and launched the special edition magazine Electrical Safety Illustrated.

For the home, the ESFI advocates the use of advanced safety technologies including AFCI circuit breakers, GFCI outlets, and tamper resistance receptacles. They also advocate gaining an understanding of your home's electrical service panel, what kind of wiring system is in your home, and whether your outlets are grounded.

For the workplace, the ESFI advocates:

  • Knowledge of industry codes and regulations;
  • Standards and best practices for employers, safety directors, electricians, and maintenance professionals; and
  • The proper uses of tools to insure workers are protected from electrical hazards.
The ESFI also provides statistical data on occupational electrical injuries and fatalities, knowledge of which can help decision-makers better allocate safety resources for maximum impact.
 
Be sure to check out the EFSI's website for more information on National Electrical Safety Month and for many resources and tools for a better understanding of electrical safety. 

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Worker Safety in Hospitals

11. February 2014

Did you know that, according to OSHA, a hospital is one of the most hazardous places to work? In 2011, U.S. hospitals recorded more than a quarter of a million work-related injuries and illnesses. Almost 7% of full-time hospital employees suffered a work-related injury or illness. That’s about twice the rate for private industry as a whole.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the likelihood of injury or illness resulting in days away from work is higher in hospitals than in construction and manufacturing, two industries usually considered hazardous.

Over 50% of hospital worker injuries resulting in days away from work consist of sprains and strains. In fact, nearly 50% of injuries and illnesses reported in 2011 among nurses and support staff were musculoskeletal disorders. In order of frequency, these disorders are followed by bruises, soreness and pain, fractures, cuts and punctures, and multiple trauma.

Generally, worker hazards at a hospital fall into the following categories:

  • Manual lifting and moving patients and mechanical equipment;
  • Working with sharp instruments;
  • Proximity to potentially contagious patients and blood borne pathogens;
  • Slips, trips, and falls;
  • Working with agitated and combative patients and visitors; and
  • Fatigue and stress (which increase the likelihood of injuries).

Work in hospitals can be dynamic and unpredictable. Workers must be prepared to respond or react to a variety of situations with split-second decisions. In addition to these challenges, hospitals face diverse safety challenges associated with food services, materials handling, maintenance, and cleaning.

OSHA has developed a number of resources for hospitals and their employees to help them understand the problems of worker safety, develop a safety and health management system, and handle patients safely.

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