Previous month:
February 2017
Next month:
April 2017

March 2017

Are your Employees Adding Value to your Safety Culture?

Campbell Posted by Jennifer Campbell

In the workplace, the word “safety” can evoke two distinct opinions. Some see safety as the most important aspect of their business, a healthy investment which their company strives to promote throughout the workplace.  Others see safety as code for an overburdensome waste of time, money, and effort.  For companies struggling with safety culture improvement, here are some ideas for raising safety awareness. 

Employees may be hesitant to embrace safety if they feel that it does not apply to them.  It is important that employees understand that even if they are not working on machines or climbing to dangerous heights, that they are still at risk of injury.  Include information and statistics on real life safety topics such as distracted drivers, food safety, fire prevention, ergonomic injuries, slips/trips/falls, and workplace violence.  Topics like these will show employees that there are risks involved with every job!  Videos of real workplace safety hazards and community safety programs can help get the point across.  Encourage employees to include their family members in the safety message.  Injuries can affect people at home or at work.

A great way to involve employees in your safety culture is by creating a new safety committee, or inviting them to join your existing safety committee.   Make sure management allows employees to participate during work time.  A safety committee should have representation from all levels of the organization, from management to laborers.  This gives employees the opportunity to express any concerns they may have.  Post any identified safety issues along with efforts to ensure those issues are addressed.  Create a company safety goal for the committee to work toward using a SMART goal format.  Rewarding employees for participating or making safety improvements is another good way to improve culture. 

A fast and simple way to keep safety in the minds of your employees is to include a reminder in their paycheck envelopes, send emails, or broadcast the message over the company PA system.  Providing and sharing safety tips, statistics, and real-life stories about other companies like your own are just a few examples of what can be included.  Ask your employees for suggestions or ideas on what they would like to learn more about.  Provide rewards or make announcements about which employees participate and make suggestions for improvements.

Many companies have taken the step to create a safety incentive program within their company.  Traditional incentive programs based on a lack of injuries are frowned upon by OSHA since they may unintentionally discourage employees from reporting accidents in fear of having the incentives revoked. However, other programs such as a “Find & Fix” or Safety BINGO that focus on hazard identification and correction, may benefit your safety program.  Encourage employees to look for hazards in the workplace and report them to the appropriate personnel to correct the problem!

These methods, along with written programs and proper training, will help to make safety in the workplace a habit instead of a hassle.  Utilizing MEMIC’s online resources is another great way to provide safety awareness information in an effective and productive manner. 


Pour Me Another Cup of Coffee

Jones Posted by Anthony G. Jones, R.N., COHN

Pour Me another Cup of Coffee… for I am a truck driving man” comes from the song “Truck Drivin’ Man” recorded by Buck Owens in 1965. This blast from the past came to mind when thumbing through a recent AAOHN journal. I came across an article referencing a Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) study on caffeine and truck driving.1  The study looked at the relationship between caffeine use, sleep, and “Safety Critical Events” (SCE). An SCE is described as a collision, tire strike, near-collision, unexpected lane deviation, or collision related conflict. 

The VTTI study, conducted over a four-month period, used long and short haul drivers from four companies. The subjects drove instrumented trucks, which included cab mounted video and driver maintained logs recording their sleep patterns and caffeine use.  Any SCE events were evaluated by researchers watching the video feeds in conjunction with the subject’s log books.

The study revealed that caffeine did not interrupt the sleep of drivers who were habitual users of caffeine. Drivers in the study actually slept longer during their “on duty” sleep periods than during their “off duty” sleep periods. This was despite increased caffeine use during “on duty” periods. Although it was noted in the study “participants experienced less sleep than the time historically considered adequate for safe driving performance.”

That was interesting, but what really got my attention was this finding: “Overall, a 6% reduction in the rate of SCE per eight (8) ounces of caffeinated beverage consumed.”

The positive and negative effects of caffeine are well known. It is one of the most used stimulants and commonly found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, and soft drinks.  According to WebMD, caffeine works by stimulating the central nervous system, heart, muscles, and the centers that control blood pressure. Caffeine can raise blood pressure, but it might not have this effect on people that use it all the time.  It can also act as a “water pill”, or a mild diuretic. But again, it may not have this effect on people who use caffeine regularly. Caffeine improves mental alertness and is used in combination with painkillers such as aspirin and Tylenol to treat simple and migraine headaches. 

Up to 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine a day appears to be safe for most adults, according to the Mayo Clinic.  That’s roughly four cups of brewed coffee, 10 cans of cola, or two “energy shot” drinks.  Heavy use of more than 500 to 600 mg a day may cause such symptoms as insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, stomach upset, fast heartbeat, and muscle tremors. 

The VTTI study suggests SCE’s may be reduced for those who have the caffeine habit. The VTTI study suggested “caffeine use among habitual users offers some protection against SCE without negative effect on sleep.”  However, two groups did not improve. Drivers aged 30 to 39 had an increase in collisions, and drivers aged 21 to 29 experienced an increase in unexpected lane deviations. The report indicated it wasn’t clear if those age groups were more distracted by secondary activities, or risky behavior such as speeding or tail-gating.

An Australian study also found caffeine use had a positive benefit in SCE reduction. The study used more subjects, a control group, and ran longer than the VTTI study.  “Our findings suggest that the consumption of caffeinated stimulant substances is associated with a significantly reduced risk of involvement in a crash for long distance drivers in Australia,” the study concluded. “The use and influence of caffeinated stimulants should be considered as an effective adjunct strategy to maintain alertness while driving.”

It appears the use of caffeine can have a benefit in reducing overall truck accidents and near miss incidences. That’s the good news. The bad news is truck drivers are not getting adequate sleep.  Significantly, as shown in the Australian study, the SCE benefits only came with high consumption of caffeine. There was no real improvement for those with low or moderate caffeine use.

Significantly, according to Lisa Sharwood, M.S., one of the Australian study authors, “While caffeine may seem effective in enhancing their alertness...it should be considered carefully in the context of a safe and healthy fatigue management strategy… Energy drinks and coffee certainly don't replace the need for sleep.” 

For more information regarding sleep and safe driving, check out the resources available at DrowsyDriving.org., and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

 

1 American Association of Occupational Health Nurse Association (AAOHN) “Workplace Health and Safety” August 2015 Vol. 63 #8.  “The Effect of Caffeine Use on Driving Safety Among Truck Drivers Who are Habitual Caffeine Users.” Authored by Karen Heaton PhD, FNP-BC and Russell Griffin PhD.

 

 

 

 


Safety Shoes – Selecting the Right Shoe for Your Workplace

LevesquePosted by Adam Levesque, MBA, CSP

What better day to discuss this topic than “Shoe the World Day?”  There are multiple factors to consider when selecting the most appropriate foot protection.  The goal is to make sure that your feet are comfortable, supported, and protected.  In a recent post, we demonstrated that a pair of safety shoes is an effective piece of personal protective equipment.  However, the hazards are not only falling objects or fork trucks rolling over toes, but discomfort due to improper fit and selection.  Choosing the appropriate safety shoe could prevent foot related problems like bunions, corns, calluses, hammertoes, and even prevent discomfort to the legs, hips, and back. 

Consider these tips when selecting your next pair.

  1. Safety should be the initial consideration when selecting the correct pair of protective footwear. There are many options in the market but you should choose a pair that will protect your feet from the hazards present.  A combination of safety toe caps, metatarsal guards (protection for the top of the foot), steel plate soles (puncture resistant), sole material (slip resistance, electrical insulation, flexibility, and hardness), and overall construction materials used should be considered. 
  1. Fit is very important! Did you know that the human foot actually grows during the day and shrinks while you sleep? While that’s not entirely true, everyone’s feet are slightly larger after a hard day’s work.  This means the end of the day is the best time to try on a new pair of shoes or boots.  Making sure your new shoes fit well is key to preventing future discomfort.  About one-third of adult men are wearing shoes that don’t fit properly, so take the time to ensure you are selecting the proper size.   
  1. Comfort is a must! The majority of quality safety shoes and boots will not stretch or need a break in period.  Make sure that when you’re test driving potential footwear, your feet are immediately comfortable.  Areas of comfort include appropriate space in the toe box, no pinching or cramping at the ball of the foot or toe area, and adequate support in the arch and heel. Make sure the padding and materials used are adequate for your work climate.  Utilizing a shoe with moisture control technology for both warm and cold climates is a great option, but can affect how your shoe fits.  When feet are comfortable, your knees, hips, and lower back are better aligned and supported.

Be aware that no footwear can provide protection against all injuries.  Hazards must be controlled by elimination, engineering controls, and administrative controls primarily.  Relying on PPE alone is not acceptable.  However, by selecting the correct shoe for your work environment and personal needs, you will have the best personal protection for preventing foot related injuries should other controls fail. 

Additional information on safety footwear is available from several online sites including The American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society, WorkingPerson.me, National Safety Council,  OSHA, and Grainger.   


Load Limits for Structurally Supported Surfaces

LarochellePosted by Greg LaRochelle, WCP

The last line of the lyrical refrain in the 1968 hit song “The Weight” by Canadian-American rock group The Band reads, “You put the load right on me.”  In the context of a work environment with a mezzanine storage platform, this verse conjures up a mental picture of disaster for anyone who might happen to be underneath the platform if it were to suddenly collapse.  OSHA addresses this load limit concern in their recently updated Walking-Working Surfaces standard, 29 CFR 1910.22, general requirements, as follows:

    1910.22(b) Loads. The employer must ensure that each walking-working surface can support the maximum intended load for that surface.

It’s important to note the previous general industry rule, 1910.22(d), required that “a plate of approved design indicating the floor load capacity must be posted.”  In a letter of interpretation, OSHA states, “There is no longer a requirement for a floor loading sign; however, the employer must ensure that employees involved in warehousing or storage activities know the intended load limits. This applies to ‘structurally supported surfaces.’”  

The general requirements of the standard also cover inspection, maintenance, and repair with the employer to ensure:

  • Walking-working surfaces are inspected, regularly and as necessary, and maintained in a safe condition;
  • Hazardous conditions on walking-working surfaces are corrected or repaired before an employee uses the walking-working surface again. If the correction or repair cannot be made immediately, the hazard must be guarded to prevent employees from using the walking-working surface until the hazard is corrected or repaired; and
  • When any correction or repair involves the structural integrity of the walking-working surface, a qualified person performs or supervises the correction or repair.

While there are several online resources for calculating floor load capacity, it is advisable to have a professional engineer calculate the maximum intended load.  In a manner of speaking, maintaining the structural integrity of a storage platform along with ensuring its maximum load capacity is not exceeded is intended to ensure “the last waltz” doesn’t happen to an employee working on or under the supported structure.

MEMIC policyholders have access to a General Industry Self Inspection Checklist in the Safety Director Resource Library.  

 

 


Redefining the Workplace

BrownPosted by Allan Brown, PT

It would seem that everyone would like to work at Google. Google’s efforts to create the happiest place to work include more than complimentary gourmet meals, massages, “nap pods” and other lavish perks.  Their efforts center around a different way of looking at the workplace with a focus on my specialty, ergonomics.  Ergonomics is human engineering, designing things or spaces so people can utilize them more comfortably, efficiently and safely.

Fortunately, workplaces around the country are following Google’s lead. Organizations in every industry are realizing that their people are their most important assets and their workplace must be optimized for them. Here are some of the top workplace trends I see as organizations endeavor to increase productivity, improve employee health, and retain employees for the long term.

Collaboration is encouraged.  Workers must be given more diverse spaces and the autonomy to move around those spaces. Many workplaces are creating collaboration spaces of different sizes so people aren’t trapped at their desks or battling over the large conference room.  The effective open office is about space reflecting and enhancing organizational culture. Opening doors, increasing communication and collaboration, and breaking down departmental silos is the new paradigm.

Mobility is king. The workplace is dynamic, don’t be left sitting still or you will be left behind. Technology has allowed people to untether from the desk. The BlackBerry thumb has been replaced by Smartphones, tablets, and laptops.  Many organizations are replacing desktops with laptops and docking stations so employees can work seamlessly in the field, move about the office and utilize the collaboration spaces created.

The emphasis on mobility is coming just in the nick of time.  The percentage of obese and overweight workers has reached epidemic proportions. The health impacts of a sedentary workplace have led some experts to say, “Sitting is the new smoking.” Dynamic sit/stand workstations have been adopted in offices across the country so workers can transition from sitting to standing throughout the day and not be trapped in one unhealthy posture.  Should you sit or stand at your desk?  The answer to the question is both. It’s the ability to change positions that creates the opportunity for wellness.

Aesthetics is functionality. An open office must take into consideration the whole person and the whole work experience. The work environment should optimally address all the senses and create a coherent whole that complements your organizational culture. Think sight, sound, and smell. What is your office decor? Are the colors for different spaces appropriately relaxing or stimulating? Do you have a scent/fragrance policy? Is there proper ventilation, especially around the break room? What is the noise level? Do you need sound proofing, white noise machines, or to designate certain disruptive tasks to specific spaces?

It’s not about money, it’s about attitude. Yes, Apple is spending $5 billion building a new campus but ergonomic solutions don’t need to be expensive. Start with your employees that sit the most and create an environment that allows them more freedom of movement throughout the day. It’s the little things that show employees you see them and value them as individuals.  The key to human engineering is adapting your workplace to fit your people, not the other way around.

Individual workstation setup is more important than ever.  Even small changes can bring ergonomic benefits.  To learn more about office ergonomics please join me for a 30 minute webinar at 10:00am EST on March 9, 2017 entitled “Office Ergo:  Little Changes Make a Big Difference.” 

Click here to nominate MEMIC Safety Net as your favorite workers' comp safety blog!