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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Limited Time Remains for GHS Training

12. November 2013

The deadline for the latest stage of Hazard Communication compliance is fast approaching. All workers who work in close proximity with hazardous chemicals must receive training in the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals by December 1, 2013.

This training is the second of three stages. In this stage, workers are expected to have training in the areas of OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard that have been adjusted by the GHS. These areas include hazard classification, labeling, and Safety Data Sheets (SDSs).

Fortunately, Safety Unlimited, Inc. meets the training requirements for the updated standard with the OSHA Hazard Communication -- Aligned with GHS course (available in English and Spanish). The course is brief and to the point; you can update your certification in under two hours from start to finish.

Global harmonization compliance is intended to simplify the identification of hazardous materials for workers across language and cultural boundaries in a global economy. So be safe, and update your Hazard Communication certification today, because the first step in protecting yourself and others from a hazard is the ability to recognize it.

GHS Limited Time

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National Crime Prevention Month

15. October 2013

October is Crime Prevention Month, a promotion by the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC). The NCPC and their trenchcoat-wearing spokesperson, McGruff the Crime Dog, have made it their goal to “Take a bite out of crime” since 1979.

Crime Prevention Month is a time to celebrate the crime prevention goals communities have met, set new goals for next year, and to raise community awareness on how individuals can help prevent crimes ranging from assault to identity theft.

This year’s Crime Prevention Month focuses on financial fraud, of which the most frequent victims are elder citizens who have accumulated assets over their lifetime. According to NCPC President and CEO, Ann Harkins:

“The losses from financial fraud are staggering—estimated at tens of billions each year. But the human toll is even worse. Financial fraud robs people of their incomes, their savings, and sometimes even the roofs over their heads… The criminals who perpetrate financial fraud are con game experts with well-honed skills. If we arm ourselves with the right information, we can take them on and keep even more people from being victimized.”

As with most things, knowledge is your best protection against fraud. The ability to identify fraud, like so many other hazards, is the best way to avoid it. For tips for all ages on how to recognize fraudulent offers, emails, and other attempts to gain personal information, download a free Crime Prevention Month kit from the NCPC website.

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National Preparedness Month

17. September 2013

Although preparing for emergencies is a year round concern and activity, did you know that the month of September has been designated as “National Preparedness Month”? The overall goal of National Preparedness Month is to engage the public to make preparedness a part of their daily lives, and not just this one single month.

Sponsored by FEMA’s Ready Campaign, National Preparedness Month is geared towards building awareness and increasing the overall number of individuals, families, and communities that take steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses, schools, organizations, and places of worship.

The theme of this year’s campaign, “You Can Be the Hero,” emphasizes that preparedness is an individual responsibility. The better prepared you are, the more likely it is that you can make a difference, even save a life, during an emergency. But even if you are not in a position to save someone’s life, just sharing the message of preparedness and engaging others in preparedness activities is important because people are more likely to hear and act on messages from those they know and trust.

You can join the National Preparedness Community (NPC) where you’ll find resources for emergency planning for individuals, families, business owners, pet owners, and seniors.

These resources are put together to remind you to:

  • Stay informed about the types of hazards likely to occur in your community and the appropriate responses to them;
  • Build emergency supply kits for your home, cars, and work; and
  • Make a family emergency plan about how to get family members together, who to contact, how to deal with your pets, and what to do if there is no access to cell phones, food, gas stations, or banks. Check out the Make a Plan website for a family emergency plan template.

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National Safety Month

6. June 2013
National Safety Month

Did you know that June is National Safety Month? National Safety Month is an annual observance, the purpose of which is to educate and influence behaviors around the leading causes of preventable injuries and deaths.

Organized and implemented by the National Safety Council (NSC), this yearly event encourages organizations to get involved and participate in order to engage everyone in safety and create a culture in which people feel a personal responsibility for both their own safety and the safety of coworkers, family, and friends.

This year’s theme is “Safety Starts with Me.” Each week in June carries a theme that focuses on critical safety issues:

Week 1: Preventing Slips, Trips, and Falls

Week 2: Employee Wellness

Week 3: Emergency Preparedness

Week 4: Ergonomics

In addition, summer safety and driving safety will be emphasized this year.

Organizations can get involved by signing up for free downloadable materials, such as posters and fact sheets, or by becoming members of the NSC and receiving a variety of exclusive member materials such as a Planner Guide and posters, tip sheets, safety talks, and newsletter articles on each of this year’s topics.

The NSC also encourages involvement through sharing social media messages with coworkers, family, and friends, and purchasing National Safety Month promotional items online at the NSC Store. Links to all of these opportunities can be found at the National Safety Month home page.

Businesses can also get involved in increasing awareness of the leading causes of preventable injuries and deaths by becoming sponsors of National Safety Month. As sponsors, corporations can highlight their commitment to safety and educate their employees and the general public. Corporations can sponsor the entire month or a designated week.

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National Distracted Driving Awareness Month

2. April 2013

Distracted driving

Did you know that April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month? The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that over 300,000 crashes involving drivers using cell phones and texting have occurred in the U. S. just this year. That is approximately one every 24 seconds. And, did you know, it is not just activities like texting that can be so dangerous, but anything that can take away the focus necessary to drive? This, the National Safety Council declares, can involve talking on a cell phone, with or without a headset.

In order to increase awareness of distracted driving and decrease the number of deaths on the roads, the NSC urges everyone to do the following this month:

  • Stop using cell phones while driving.
  • Understand the dangers of the cognitive distraction of the brain.
  • Inform people who call you while driving that you'd be happy to continue the conversation once they have reached their destination.
  • Tell others about the dangers of cell phone distracted driving.  

Additionally, the NSC provides several ways for you to get involved this month. You can take a pledge to drive cell phone free, register for a free distracted driving webinar, or download a variety of distracted driving resources from their website, including a fact sheet, a kit for employers, posters, videos, and more.

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OSHA's New Hydrogen Sulfide Page

5. March 2013

Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is one of the leading causes of workplace gas inhalation deaths in the US. If you've ever wondered about the specific hazards posed by Hydrogen Sulfide, the industries that produce it, or the effects it has on people, OSHA recently unveiled a new Hydrogen Sulfide web page addressing the highly flammable and toxic gas.

The new OSHA page provides informative graphics on why hydrogen sulfide is so deadly, as well as:

If you work in an industry where hydrogen sulfide may be present, you may be required to take a Hydrogen Sulfide Awareness course to familiarize yourself with the properties of the gas, and to learn how to protect yourself and others. Remember, the best way to avoid a hazard is to be aware of its existence.

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Mobile Device Ergonomics

6. December 2012
Mobile Ergonomimcs

Tablets and smart phones are becoming more and more common at both work and home. People spend a lot of their time using these devices to check e-mail, websites, or social networking services while on the go or away from their computers. Yet did you know that with the increased use of mobile devices, comes the risk of developing a repetitive strain injury?

Repetitive strain injuries (or RSI) are those that occur through excessive, repetitive use of the muscles and tendons in the body, and can result by the undertaking of almost any repetitive task. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, musculoskeletal disorders account for a third of all workplace injuries and illnesses.

As you may suspect, the smaller surfaces and keypads on mobile devices can cause users to adopt compromised and restrained positions, which in turn can lead to the development of a growing number of disorders with names such as BlackBerry thumb, iPod finger, or iPad hand.

While many of these injuries and disorders can be uncomfortable at first and – if unheeded – potentially debilitating, there are several things you can do now to limit your risk against developing such an injury.

The best way to avoid injury from your gadget is to limit the use of your device altogether. This means only using it at certain times, taking frequent breaks, giving yourself tech holidays, or, when possible, sending shorter and fewer messages. Furthermore, you should always use your device in a relaxed, comfortable manner, avoiding positions that may cause you to overreach or strain your hands or wrists. If you feel any sort of pain, you should stop and rest your hands. If the pain persists or does not go away after adequate rest, you should check with your doctor.

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Daylight Saving Creates Road Safety Hazards

12. November 2012

With the end of daylight saving time and reduction of daylight in general, road safety becomes an even greater concern for motorists, cyclists, runners, and pedestrians. The National Road Safety Foundation has done studies that show auto accidents increase after we lose an hour. As night driving increases, drowsiness increases, and drowsy driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving.

Drivers who experience signs of fatigue are advised to pull over, take a break, have a caffeinated beverage or snack, or even take a nap. These signs can include:

  • Difficulty focusing, rubbing eyes, frequent blinking;
  • Daydreaming or not remembering the last few miles;
  • Head snaps and yawning; and
  • Drifting out of your lane, tailgating, or hitting rumble strips.

Reduced visibility creates obvious hazards for pedestrians as well. According to studies done by Carnegie Mellon University, pedestrian fatalities rise by 186% in November--the month in which Daylight Saving Time takes effect. Because of reduced visibility, drivers and pedestrians alike should use extra care.

In most situations, drivers are required to yield the right of way to pedestrians crossing streets in marked or unmarked crosswalks. However, pedestrians are sometimes more difficult to see at intersections, where pedestrians may cross a street onto which a vehicle is turning. Pedestrians who walk or jog along roadways are encouraged to follow the following suggestions from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

  • When possible, cross a street or roadway at a designated crosswalk;
  • Always stop and look left, right, and left again before crossing;
  • Increase visibility at night by carrying a flashlight when walking and wearing reflective clothing that helps highlight body movements; and
  • When you must walk on a street or a rural roadway, walk facing traffic so you can see when vehicles are approaching.

Remember, increasing your visibility and awareness as a driver or pedestrian is the best way to avoid accidents after dark.


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Safety Resources for Small Business

10. October 2012

As a small business owner, you are responsible for ensuring your workplace is a safe one. This means making an effort to identify and eliminate hazards that may result in illness or injury. Protecting your employees often involves implementing controls that reduce or eliminate identified hazards, as well as training your employees to identify hazards and use equipment properly through a variety of training and hazard awareness courses.

But where do you start? Who do you contact to help identify workplace hazards? What training programs should you institute at your workplace? Who do you appoint to train your workers?

Fortunately, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) offers a Small Business Resource Guide for the small business owner. This site offers guides for regulations, emergency preparedness, specific occupations and hazards, and resources that provide consultation services for inspections, hazard identification, and program development. These links may well be all you need to determine the hazards that exist at your workplace and how to protect your employees from them, ensuring they remain safe and productive.

If you're not sure where to begin with these resources, you can always start at the General Information page, which offers a variety of articles on safety and health, inspection and hazard checklists, and government materials on small business safety from the US Small Business Administration.

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