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August 2010

4,340

The national annual report on workplace deaths came out this week and it was reported as good news: 4,340 workers died on the job in the U.S. in 2009.

It's true that this number showed a 17 percent decrease in reported workplace deaths from 2008. So, in a sense, the news was good. But really? More than 4,000 people died at work in the United States last year? That's 4,340 tragedies. We can do better.

So, take a minute today to read the report and think for a minute: Could any have occurred in my workplace? What could I do to prevent it?

There's no good number when it comes to workplace deaths. But one thing is clear: Fewer than 4,340 is better.


Walk On!

LaRochelle Greg 2
Posted by Greg LaRochelle

I recall a visit to one of my business accounts where two office employees were corresponding by e-mail with their cubicles merely eight feet from each other.  I thought, boy, we sure have changed, and perhaps not for the better, since the days when our grandparents purportedly walked 5 miles to school in the blinding snow.  But the message here is not about the steely drive of our ancestors or the conveniences of modern technology but rather the health benefits of walking.

According to a study by researchers from Rutgers University and the University of Tennessee, Americans on average walk only 87 miles a year in contrast to Europeans who average 237 miles a year.  The researchers attributed this mode of "active transport"  to be one of the reasons Europeans are thinner than their peers across the pond.  Along with a leaner body mass, walking regularly at a moderate pace for at least 30 minutes a day has the following health benefits.

  • Decreases the risk of heart disease (by as much as 40% in women)
  • Improves circulation
  • Reduces muscle tension and combats depression
  • Helps prevent osteoporosis
  • Bolsters the immune system
  • Helps prevent and control diabetes

These are just some of the benefits gained by "low-impact biped locomotion" and with less jarring of the joints than running.  So as the dog days of summer give way to the crisp air of autumn in New England with all its multicolored splendor - walk on!
 

 

Born Ignorant

Klatt Randy 
Posted by Randy Klatt

“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.” - Benjamin Franklin

Harsh as it may sound, this classic quote has real meaning and impact even in the 21st century, especially when it comes to workplace safety. After all, the safety culture in any environment is the direct result of people’s behavior.  Many will say that safety is common sense or that “We’ve been lucky,” or that someone was hurt because “It was an accident.” But these are just platitudes and excuses. The truth is that if an employee is hurt, it is almost always human error that caused the injury. It may not be the fault of the person who is hurt, but nearly all injuries result from people’s mistakes.

So what can we learn from Ben Franklin’s wisdom?  Consider these tips:

  • New employees are often inexperienced and require orientation training. Younger workers have a different view of risk than more seasoned veterans, so consider this when assigning duties or responsibility.  
  • Never assume an employee understands a process or procedure. Verify and supervise until satisfied that the training has been effective.
  • Dig deep when searching for incident causes. Find the root cause and implement changes to address what is discovered. Learn from the mistakes. Don’t let history repeat.
  • Employers may use rewards and incentives (even just a pat on the back) to help employees learn, or they may use discipline policies in order to hold people accountable.  Both should be in place to be successful. 
  • Set clear and measurable safety goals and give employees the knowledge and tools to reach those goals. 

So, please consider that all people make mistakes, and that as an employer or safety manager, it is your role to help your workers avoid errors that can lead to injuries. A safe workplace is essential to an organization’s success, and this can be achieved through consistent attention.  We may all be born ignorant, but we can become very smart and safe and effective workers if we put our minds (and processes) to it.

Born ignorant chick money


A Little Caffeine Won’t Hurt, Right?

Klatt Randy 
Posted by Randy Klatt

So, in a recent post we talked about the dangers of fatigue. If your answer to that problem is a cup of coffee, you may want to think again.  But if you’re tired or you need a kick start to your morning, will a shot of caffeine really help?

The short answer is: Maybe. But just a little and there are some side effects to consider. Caffeine is definitely a stimulant and can make people more aware and alert. That can lead to more productivity or better safety awareness.  However, the effects vary person-to-person and there are some significant limitations that we should all be aware of. 

Caffeine is a stimulant, but it is also a diuretic.  It will take fluid from the body leaving a person dehydrated. Dehydration can lead to some serious health risks. The stimulant factor isn’t always desired either, like when we are trying to fall asleep at night.  Those who might have high blood pressure generally should not consume caffeine either. Lastly, those who have made caffeine a habit to get through the day will see decreased benefit over time, and could suffer short term adverse symptoms if intake is stopped suddenly.   

A 7-ounce cup of brewed coffee contains between 80 to 130 milligrams of caffeine.  Colas and tea average about half that amount. The American Dietetic Association’s Complete Food and Nutrition Guide reads, “for most healthy adults, moderate amounts of caffeine, 200 to 300 milligrams a day, or about two cups of coffee poses no physical problem.”  So if you hit the drive-thru each morning and order the grande brewed coffee (16-20 oz.), you have reached the recommended daily limit for caffeine intake. 

Lastly, if you find yourself in one of these categories, you may want to eliminate caffeine entirely:

  • Have been substituting coffee in place of water and juice in your diet
  • Are pregnant or nursing a child
  • Are having trouble falling asleep
  • Have a medical condition such as high blood pressure, gastritis or ulcers

We all want to be alert and ready to take on the workplace safely, but we should be able to do so without stimulants. A better alternative is to get more sleep, avoid TV right before bedtime, drink plenty of water and exercise regularly. 

For more information check out:


Young workers, old story: Too many injuries

The special health section in Monday's Boston Globe featured a cover story about an issue important to every parent and, hopefully, every employer: workplace safety for young workers, particularly teenagers.

We know that inexperienced workers are twice as likely to be hurt at work as experienced employees. And, of course, by their very nature, teenagers are inexperienced. Couple that with the fact that they are often hired to do jobs with inherent danger and you have a potential tragedy.

What's the answer? Well, in part, it's training and supervision. And yet, this is reported in Elizabeth Cooney's story from the Globe:

When researchers from the Teens at Work Project interviewed 208 teens under age 18 who had been injured at work from 2003 through 2007, about half said they had no safety training. About 15 percent said there was no supervisor on site when they were hurt. Almost a quarter said they had no work permit.

This is inexcusable. If you have teen workers, make sure they get the training they need. And if you're a parent of a teen worker, ask them about safety. Have they been trained? Is someone supervising them when they are engaged in potentially dangerous tasks?

Work teaches lots of valuable lessons, but if the lesson comes from a workplace injury, its price is too high.