Being Proactive is Key for Workplace Safety

KlattPosted by Randy Klatt, WCP®

“I never saw a wreck and never have been wrecked, nor was I ever in any predicament that threatened to end in disaster.”

Captain Edward Smith in 1907

You might recognize this as a quote from the captain of the RMS Titanic. Although spoken several years prior to the 1912 sinking of the Titanic, it certainly holds a powerful safety message. Since we should probably learn from history rather than repeat it, consider how we can benefit from Captain Smith’s misfortune. Being prepared for the worst can help prevent accidents and injuries from happening.

Safety must be an active part of everyone’s job, and everyone should be engaged in activities that will reduce the likelihood of injuries taking place. Workplace safety is often overlooked or simply taken for granted. No worker wants to be injured, and no employer wants to be responsible for an employee injury. So it’s just “common sense” right? If it were only that simple. A worker who says “I’ve never been hurt” isn’t necessarily being proactive to prevent injuries, he’s simply recounting how lucky he’s been. Similar to the stock market where past performance is not an indicator of future returns, a good safety record is not a guarantee of employee safety. Complacency is the biggest threat to workplace safety.

Organizational culture will make or break any safety program. Success comes with commitment to safety from every level. It starts with solid hiring practices that ensure the right people are brought into the workplace. It includes an orientation process that covers all safety rules, proper equipment use, emergency procedures, and how to make safety related suggestions or report unsafe conditions.  Continual training and process improvement are also necessary to keep employees focused on personal safety and organizational safety success.

A strong safety culture also includes proper leadership from the front line supervisors all the way up through the executive team. All organizational levels must understand the importance of safety and integrate it into their business goals. Employees must be held accountable for safe behaviors and management cannot let production push aside safe operations. It is truly a team effort from the top down. Breakdowns in communication or shortcuts taken to save time will only result in a sporadic and unpredictable injury cycle. Safety is manageable just like every other aspect of business. 

Be ready for emergencies and expect the unexpected. Captain Smith thought he was sailing an unsinkable ship. He was steaming too fast in an area where icebergs were common, had an inexperienced and overconfident crew, and didn’t have enough lifeboats for everyone aboard. This moment in history is important to consider as we apply workplace safety to our organizations. Make sure you are doing all you can to prevent injuries, that you have a well trained staff and that safety is a priority for everyone.

By taking these proactive steps, the likelihood of injuries decreases and production will increase. Safety should not be an additional duty or seen as an expense item. Safety is a smart investment and it should be an integral part of everyone’s job! 

MEMIC policyholders can access additional information on safety culture through our resources available in the Safety Director

 

 


Employee Safety and Wellness Run Hand-in-Hand

Rob-Sylvester1 Posted by Rob Sylvester, CSPHA, CEHT, WCP®

When we think of employee safety, we generally think of occupational and industrial safety programs that control hazards and exposures. That is a critical component, but let’s take it a step further and consider a holistic approach. Employers can promote injury and illness prevention efforts to advance worker well-being, also known as Total Worker Health (TWH).

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HOW DOES WORK IMPACT EMPLOYEES’ HEALTH?

Data shows that 36 percent of workers suffer from work-related stress that costs U.S. businesses $30 billion a year in lost workdays.1 Nearly half (44 percent) of working adults say that their current job impacts their overall health, but only 28 percent of those believe it is a positive impact. People with disabilities, in hazardous or low-paying jobs, and those in retail are most likely to say their jobs have a negative impact on their stress levels (43 percent), eating habits (28 percent), sleeping patterns (27 percent), and weight (22 percent). 1

Ann Reskin from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) states how stress can adversely affect employees and the bottom line:
“Stress increases the risk of illness, injury, and job burn-out and unlike other occupational hazards, nearly the entire working population can be affected. The latest research tells us that job stress plays a major role in many chronic health problems, and the evidence is growing. Now more than ever, it’s time to learn what can be done to relieve a workforce under stress.”

WHAT CAN EMPLOYERS DO?

Talk to employees about the specific conditions that drive stress in a particular job. Often there is feedback about a harmful or unsafe workplace, understaffing, variable hours, overwork, or expanded responsibilities. Downsizing, inadequate or failing equipment or materials, and a lack of regular and clear supervisor feedback can also be contributors. Engage your employees at all levels so they can be part of the positive changes.

TWH maintains a focus on employee workplace safety and emphasizes the benefits of providing additional opportunities to workers to advance their health and well-being. This ranges from leadership to compensation and benefits to community support and much more. This NIOSH graphic is a great tool for your team to start planning discussions on TWH. 

GET STARTED: A FEW WORKPLACE WELLNESS SOLUTIONS

  • To prevent risk of musculoskeletal disorders, consider:

◦Reorganizing or redesigning how individuals do their work;

◦Providing ergonomic consultations; and

◦Providing arthritis management strategies.

  •  To reduce work-related stress, consider:

◦Implementing organizational and management policies that give workers more flexibility and control over their schedules;

◦Providing supervisor training on approaches to reducing stressful working conditions; and

◦Providing skill-building stress reduction interventions for all workers.

 

UPCOMING MEMIC WEBINAR THIS MONTH

Looking to learn how wellness and stress reduction can benefit your organization? MEMIC customers are invited to join us for an Employee Safety & Wellness Webinar with Rob Sylvester on Friday, October 20, 2017, at 10:00 a.m. MEMIC clients also have access to the resources contained in the Safety Director along with our video library in our Safety Academy.   

1The High Price of Workplace Stress, http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2016/07/the-high-price-of-workplace-stress/


Best Practices for Hotel Shuttle Drivers and Guest Baggage

ValorosePosted by Scott Valorose, CPE, CSP

Hospitality employees are at an increased risk of injury compared to several other industries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2015 data, the injury and illness rate [1] for hotel employees was 5.1 compared to 3.0 for general industry. 

Additionally, at properties servicing airports, often hotel shuttle drivers are lifting and handling guest baggage throughout their shift as well as spending significant time sitting in vans or mini-buses. The combination of risks, material handling and static sitting posture, increases the likelihood of injury for these workers. Read on for some tips on what to know and what to do to minimize risk and injuries.

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WHAT TO KNOW

Shuttle drivers who handle passenger baggage, often to and from airports, may be exposed to risk factors that increase the risk of injury to the back, shoulders, and arms. Risk factors include forceful exertions, awkward postures, and repetition. In general, risk is increased when forces are greater, bending and reaching are more exaggerated, or physical actions are more frequent.

  • Handling bags at airports that weigh 40 pounds or more has been found to increase the risk of injury for most healthy people. [2] Weight can also be concentrated more at one end of the bag or shift while handling it. Airlines often tag overweight bags as such, thus giving the handler some warning. However, that weight is generally for bags over 50 pounds so is not effective for most “heavy” bags. Most passengers don’t want to pay the overweight bag fee, but again that limit is usually 50 pounds. 
  • The lower back may be more vulnerable to injury due to prolonged sitting while driving. Sitting produces more stress to the lower back, especially if the seat doesn’t provide good support or the driver isn’t aware of proper posture. Stretch breaks that may be helpful are often not possible especially during the busy shifts of the day. 

WHAT TO DO

  • Test the weight of the bag and/or ask the traveler prior to fully lifting the bag. Knowing how much weight to prepare for and adapt practices to can be helpful. [3, 4] Choose to load these bags first to allow for more choice and to help minimize reaching if loading from the outside. As stated above, don’t rely on “overweight” tags or assume a smaller bag isn’t very heavy.
  • When stowing baggage from outside the shuttle, consider positioning bags on the wheeled end or standing them upright. Doing so has been found to help reduce the physical demands on the back and shoulders. [3] From inside the shuttle, stowing bags on the lowest shelf with the wheels down can also make it easier.
  • Pay attention to handle placement. Most bags have at least two handles. Use both handles to better distribute the effort required and to stay close as possible. Keeping the load close to the body’s centerline minimizes the stress to the body. Think “weight x distance = force.”
  • If handling at chest height or above, consider supporting the bag from underneath rather than with a handle. This should help keep the arm closer to the body and protect the shoulder. Quick motions to start a lift should be minimized. Although the use of momentum can have some benefits, more effort is required to start the lift or motion.
  • Lastly, after driving, or during breaks if you’re able, take a few seconds to stretch - place your hands on your hips, slightly bend your knees, and gently lean backward. It is beneficial to get in the habit of taking regular stretch breaks.

OSHA provides a Baggage Handling eTool focused on airline employees such as ticket agents and ramp agents, but some of the guidance may be helpful for any employee engaged in baggage handling. Additional hospitality resources for MEMIC customers can be found in the Safety Director.

[1] BLS , Cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers

[2] NIOSH (2014), EPHB Report No. 010-22a

[3] Dell (1998), Safety Science Monitor

[4] Korkmaz et al (2006), Int’l Journal of Industrial Ergonomics