Exercise Your Brain!

   CatlettPosted by Larry Catlett, MD, OMC WellnessWorks

About the Safety Net Guest Contributor:

Dr. Larry Catlett is the founder of Occupational Medical Consulting, LLC, a Maine business that for over 20 years, partners with companies nationwide to create a sustainable healthy workforce culture and reduce employee health risks.

Is it really true that you can prevent memory loss? 

Dr. Catlett’s Answer: In most cases, absolutely! And guess what? The same healthy lifestyle you are working toward–plus a little brain exercise–is just what the doctor ordered! Read on for some tips to help you prevent memory loss.

Stop smoking. I know, here we go again with the stop smoking stuff, but it’s important to understand that smokers have twice the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Get a handle on stress. Don’t tell me your stress doesn’t affect you. It does and sometimes for the worse regarding your brain. Learn appropriate stress management techniques (consider a health coach) and begin the process of turning down the heat!

Exercise 30 minutes a day, most days each week. Not only does it keep your brain healthy, but it is the best stress reducer you can try.

Eat right. A healthy diet full of fruits and veggies contains antioxidants that not only protect your brain from injury but help prevent many cancers as well.  It is better to get your antioxidant supply from healthy foods rather than supplements.

Work your mind. Learn a new language. Do crossword puzzles. Learn to play something like the guitar. Volunteer. Read. Garden. Get up off the couch and start a new hobby.

We lose brain cells, or at least they shrink, as we age but that does not necessarily have to result in inevitable dulling of our wits as we age. Just like muscles and lung function, you must “use it or lose it”. So what’s the hold up? Take control! Think how rewarding it might be to actually read the menu at a real Italian restaurant! And think about this: just as so many other health problems we have discussed in this blog can influence your ability to work safely, memory loss and impaired cognitive function can set the stage for your own or a coworker’s preventable injury.


Evolution of the Cabicle

 WoodPosted by Andy Wood, CLP

Gone are the days of loggers toiling in the great outdoors enduring the elements and demands of strenuous physical labor. As the industry has become more mechanized, those who work in the logging sector are more likely to be driving a truck or operating heavy equipment. In fact, in 20 short years the logging profession has transformed from one of the most physically demanding jobs a body can withstand to one of the most static workplaces a body can survive. While traumatic and fatal injuries have substantially reduced, the rate of “soft tissue” or “repetitive motion” injuries is on the rise.

Like traditional office workers, skilled machine operators’ workdays are long, inactive, and highly repetitious, and are done from small cubicle-like spaces.  However, the logger’s cabicle is exposed to dangers beyond those an office worker is exposed to. Whole body vibration, constant jarring, temperature extremes, poor air quality, elevated noise levels, and a production pace being driven by other team members combine to increase the hazards of machine operation. Extended workdays (often 12 hours) exacerbate all issues by increasing exposure and decreasing recovery time. Traditional equipment cabs were not intended for these extended shifts. 

Enter the modern logging machine cabicle. These things are awesome, equipped with all the features of your favorite ManCave. The newest equipment offers amenities designed to accommodate operators of all sizes and make their workday as productive and pain free as possible: adjustable seating and controls, climate control with hepa filtration and aromatherapy (okay, we might not be quite ready for that one), heated/cooled air-ride seats, lunch box heater and cooler, XM radio and Bluetooth, and noise reducing features. With an environment like that who would want to leave? But having all of these amenities comes at an ergonomic cost. On a good day, when nothing breaks down, an operator may exit the cab only a few times in a 12-14 hour shift resulting in increased seat time further limiting physical activity.

But let’s return to reality for just a minute. Not all machines are delivered with all the high end options and the majority of our rolling stock is older equipment not equipped with the latest features and will continue to be in service for many years. So, here’s what you can do, regardless of how new or old your cabicle is, to minimize your exposure to ergonomic risk factors:

  • Use the full range of adjustment options to create a workspace that allows your body to stay as close to neutral posture as possible.
  • Exit the cab for whole-body stretching–especially for the back. A brief walk will increase circulation bringing necessary nutrients to tissue and remove harmful toxins which concentrate when circulation slows.
  • Stay hydrated. All functions of your body perform best when fully hydrated–even your brain. Dehydration has been shown to adversely affect decision making ability and cognitive performance, which may impact job productivity and safety. In the summer, air conditioners remove much needed moisture from the air. In the winter, cold dry air lacks adequate moisture for respiration and must be hydrated by the moisture in your lungs.
  • Find ways to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine–both at work and at home.

While the transition to a more mechanized industry has reduced the most life-threatening injuries, the impact of long term logging equipment operations on chronic adverse health conditions has yet to be fully understood. With the term “sitting is the new smoking” being echoed by researchers again and again, incorporating these recommendations will be a much needed improvement to your overall health and wellbeing.

 


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


Working Safely Over or Near Water

LarochellePosted by Greg LaRochelle, WCP

With recent hurricanes Harvey and Irma altering the landscape from sinister storm surges and unforgiving flooding rains, it is clear some form of work will need to be conducted over or near water. Whether that means making repairs to a bridge or mending a breach when the levee breaks, in either case, construction contractors and other employers need to safeguard their employees from the danger of drowning.

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OSHA addresses this hazard in its Working over or near water standard, 29 CFR 1926.106, as follows:

  • Employees working over or near water, where the danger of drowning exists, shall be provided with U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket or buoyant work vests. (106 [a])
  • Prior to and after each use, the buoyant work vests or life preservers shall be inspected for defects which would alter their strength or buoyancy. Defective units shall not be used. (106 [b])
  • Ring buoys with at least 90 feet of line shall be provided and readily available for emergency rescue operations. Distance between ring buoys shall not exceed 200 feet. (106 [c])
  • At least one lifesaving skiff shall be immediately available at locations where employees are working over or adjacent to water. (106 [d])

While the standard is brief in its stated requirements, OSHA has published 18 letters of interpretation since 1990 pertaining to questions on its content posed by the regulated community. One particular letter of interpretation answers a question on the need for a life jacket/buoyant work vest for employees working over water less than two feet in depth as well as the requirement for a lifesaving skiff in shallow water.

OSHA’s stance is as follows: Section 1926.106(a) does not specify a minimum depth of water where a danger of drowning would exist. However, several factors are relevant to determining whether a danger of drowning exists. These include the type (i.e., a pool, a river, a canal), depth, presence or absence of a current, height above the water surface, and the use of fall protection.  

Depending on the factors present, there are some circumstances where a drowning hazard could exist where workers are near or over water that is less than two feet in depth. For example, where workers are not using fall protection and are 10 feet above a river, a worker may fall and be knocked unconscious. Without the use of a life jacket or buoyant work vest, a worker in such a scenario could drown.

However, OSHA adds that if the drowning hazard can be completely removed through the use of 100 percent fall protection (without exception), life jackets/vests would not be required. With regard to the need for at least one lifesaving skiff, OSHA answers the question, in the case of shallow water less than two feet deep, by stating:

"This provision does not state a minimum depth of water required before a lifesaving skiff is necessary. Unlike §1926.106(a), this provision does not include the phrase 'where the danger of drowning exists.'"

"As discussed in the previous question, in certain circumstances, such as where the worker is at a height where a fall could cause significant injury or unconsciousness, drowning in shallow water can result. The purpose of §1926.106(d) is to facilitate the rapid rescue of workers who fall into the water. Even in shallow water, a skiff will greatly reduce the amount of time it takes to reach an employee in the water (unless the employee is working in an area very near the water's edge)."

Of course, if the water were so shallow that rescuers could simply run in (and a skiff would foul on the bottom anyway), a skiff would not be required.

With roughly 71 percent of Earth’s surface covered in water, the destructive power of natural disasters will unfortunately continue to cause hardship for many. For employees involved in cleanup and repair, working over or near water does not need to add personal injury to the insult of devastating property damage.  

 


Powered Industrial Truck Pedestrian Safety Lights – What a Bright Idea!

DeRoiaPosted by John DeRoia, OHST, WCP®

According to a report published by OSHA, in 2015 there were approximately 96,785 incidents related to powered industrial trucks.  With approximately 855,900 lifts in the US, roughly 1 in 10 forklifts were involved in an accident.  Since these are common devices used in nearly all industries, any safety improvement would certainly be welcome. 

While walking through a large warehouse recently, I saw this blue light shining on the floor, moving out from an aisle way.  The light was mounted to a forklift and was shining perhaps 15 feet in front of the lift.  I thought to myself “WOW, here is something that I haven’t seen before and what a great warning device for pedestrians or other vehicular traffic in tight areas!” 

After a little research, I discovered these lights have been available in the United States since 2013.  Several manufacturers offer these lights in various colors, configurations, and mounting options for all types of powered industrial trucks.

Here is a photo demonstrating the light in action:

Forklift 1

Forklift 2

They can also be used as a warning light to represent a “do not enter area.”

Many manufacturers and retailers offer these devices and the price has been dropping as product usage increases.  Check out these products available from Forklift Safety Solutions, Forklift Training Systems, and Global Industrial.  Naturally, the cost of these safety improvements is minimal compared to the cost of an injury related to fork lift use.

I thought it would be a good idea to shed some light on this subject!  Clearly there is no substitute for proper forklift operator training, equipment maintenance policies and procedures, and bystander awareness training. 

However, just like standard PPE, warning signs, and other safety equipment, devices like these may improve overall safety awareness and reduce the odds of a catastrophic injury.  

 

 

 


Torque Tool Use

AndersonPosted by Maureen Graves Anderson, M.Sc., CPE

Recently I was asked about safe torque levels when using electrically, pneumatically, or hydraulically powered screwdrivers or wrenches. These tools are often used in assembly jobs in the manufacturing industry. 

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Basically, torque is a measure of the turning force on an object. A person holds the tool in place while the tool delivers a specified amount of force, measured in English units, inch-pounds (Newton-meters [nM] in the metric world). As the tool delivers the force, the body braces against the force. When the specified force is reached, the machine stops abruptly. It is this jerking reaction force that causes the problem – over time this repeated force can cause musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). How much force, torque in this case, can a person safely handle? The amount of torque force that a person can tolerate over the course of day varies greatly. Overall, strength, age, sex, posture, grip size and type are all factors that determine tolerance to torque forces. 

For healthy adults, we know the range of the maximum voluntary contraction (MVC), the measure of strength for this type of force. But that tells us only the maximum a person can generate. This is not a good indicator for someone repeatedly doing this type of work. For that, we need to modify the MVC with a percentage. 14% of MVC is used for intermittent static contractions and 8% for continuous static contractions over the course of day. So doing the math, I calculate that for 95% of women, the range is 6.7 inch-pounds to 14.6 inch-pounds, with 10.66 inch-pounds being the average. For 95% of men, the range is 13.6 inch-pounds to 21.3 inch-pounds, with 17.6 inch-pounds being the average.

What do you do if the torque tool generates more force than a person can comfortably handle over the course of the day? There are two approaches: engineering controls and administrative controls. Engineering controls should be the first line of defense. Here are a few options:

  • Reaction arm for conventional tool: When a torque tool reaches its specified force, it abruptly stops. A reaction arm transmits the force to the frame rather than the human body. It is interesting that the industry recommends torque reaction arms for forces greater than 12 pounds; this is a pretty good estimate for males. For women, I recommend using these torque reaction arms for forces greater than 10 inch-pounds. There are many on the market, here is an example:

             Torque Pic 1Source: Penntoolco.com

  • Pulse tools: These tools apply the force by pulsing, and are very quiet and do not require a reaction arm. However, they are more expensive upfront and require more maintenance. In the long run, they may be cost-effective depending upon how they are used. 
  • Remember that posture matters. I advise the working surface should be set so the operator can be in an upright position, with good head posture. 
  • The grip should fit comfortably in the hand, and there should be no awkward angles of wrists and hands. 
  • Lighting should be adequate to do the job. Poor lighting can result in poor posture as people crane their necks to see better. However, overly bright environments can lead to eye fatigue. 
  • Limiting exposure is an administrative control that should be considered. Job rotation is a good strategy for limiting exposure. As an example of job rotation, a person would alternate between torque tool and non-torque tool tasks every two hours.

Torque tools are great in a manufacturing environment. With focus on engineering and administrative controls, they can be safe tools too.  For more information, check out this torque tool resource from EHS Today, and hand tool safety article from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.


Distracted Driving Messages Abound

KlattPosted by Randy Klatt, WCP®

Distracted Driving Messages Abound… We Mean You!

The public service messages regarding safe driving are just about everywhere. On billboards, electronic signs, and bumper stickers we see reminders to buckle up, don’t drink and drive, and put down the cell phone. The question is this: Is the message getting through?

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Each year there are approximately 1.7 million injury crashes in the U.S., and 2015 and 2016 saw significant increases in the number of traffic fatalities. It doesn’t sound like drivers are getting the message, does it? These crashes take a terrible toll on individual workers, families, and employers across the country. With an economic toll in the hundreds of billions it is also a significant business concern. 

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What should employers be doing to protect their most valuable assets… their workers? Create a fleet policy that covers all employees who drive company vehicles or their own vehicles on company business. Include:

  • annual motor vehicle record checks and set strong requirements to qualify to drive
  • electronic device policies that significantly limit or prohibit use while driving
  • regular vehicle inspections
  • ongoing maintenance requirements
  • ensure vehicles have safety equipment and adverse weather gear when needed
  • ongoing driver training

Setting a policy is the easy part. Ensuring employees follow the policy is another issue. Cell phones certainly provide instant communication, access to sales staff, customer service excellence, and other efficiencies. However, the dangers of driving while using the phone are well documented. Employers cannot demand productivity levels that are only possible if workers use phones while driving. Don’t fall into the “do as I say and not as I do” trap. In 2011, The National Transportation Safety Board recommended a nationwide ban on electronic devices while driving.   

Safe driving is all about physics. Speed, distance, time… drivers can’t allow themselves to become the victim of the laws of physics. Allow plenty of time to reach your destination, follow all traffic laws including speed limits, and allow adequate following distance between vehicles.  A car travelling at highway speed is moving about 100 feet per second. There simply is not enough time to make decisions and react to an event on the road if your car is only a few feet away from the car in front of you. 

As we approach the Labor Day weekend and the end of summer, there will be plenty of people on the road. Some will be in a hurry, some will be distracted, many will be tired, and some will be impaired.  We owe it to ourselves, our employers, and our families to stay alert and “arrive alive."

Check out the resources available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety,  and the National Safety Council


Don’t Let Solar Events Eclipse Safety

It’s been almost 100 years since the last coast-to-coast total solar eclipse, so there is plenty of reason to be excited for the big event on Monday. But don’t let a once-in-a-lifetime solar event eclipse everyday safety.

Watch safely. Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to stare at the sun? NASA offers some great tips on how to use solar filters and viewers to enjoy the solar eclipse without damaging your eyes, including where to find reputable vendors. Thinking about vision safety and protective glasses is not just important when looking at the sun, there are plenty of things you do around the home that necessitate eye protection – tasks like spraying cleaning chemicals or pesticides; mowing the lawn, clipping bushes, cutting tree limbs; or using any power tool to cut, grind, or drill.

Drive safely. Expect a lot of traffic this weekend and Monday. Be prepared for delays by planning extra time into your trips so you’ll be less inclined to rush and make poor decisions due to stress. Drive defensively and expect more distracted driving.

Walk safely. Unfortunately, we’ve gotten used to people being distracted while looking down at their phones, people literally fell off clips during the Pokémon craze, now add to that people being distracted looking up at the sky. Yes, distracted walking can be deadly, especially when it meets distracted driving.

The most important thing is to just be mindful, don’t get caught up too much in the excitement that you ignore common sense. There is no reason a once-in-a-lifetime event should become an end-of-a-lifetime event.

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