Archive for February 25, 2015

How to Choose the Best Work Gloves for the Job

People have been relying on work gloves for thousands of years, and today a pair of gloves remains as sturdy and practical a tool as any a worker might utilize. New technological advances have produced gloves thick enough to provide adequate protection for dangerous work while allowing enough dexterity for precise movement. Manufacturers have also made strides in designing work gloves comfortable enough that workers will be less tempted to forego wearing them. Even so, more than one third of all workplace accidents involve hand injuries, costing companies more than $300 million per year according to OSHA Fact Sheet 93-03. The best work gloves for a specific task are essential to protecting employees, as well as companies’ bottom lines.

Every worker knows the importance of picking the best tool for the job, and gloves are like any other tool in that respect: you’ll need the right pair at hand in order to achieve your work goals while protecting yourself correctly. The wrong glove choice, or the decision to work without gloves, could result in injury and its attendant negative effects, such as loss of productivity, decreased employee morale, and higher medical and worker’s compensation costs. Risks workers face that the right gloves can prevent range from skin absorption of harmful substances to cuts and lacerations, severe abrasions, punctures, chemical and thermal burns, and extremes of heat and cold. As the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) states in its hand protection standard 1910.128, the responsibility rests with employers to ensure that the best type of glove is always available for the workplace.

Work gloves made from old reliable standards, such as cotton cloth and leather are useful for many tasks that pose a risk of cuts, punctures or abrasions. Product assembly and material handling require dexterity and tactile sensitivity, which leather work gloves or those made from cotton blends or canvas are best at providing while also protecting the worker from the hazards their tasks pose. Heavier-gauge (thicker)variations provide more hand protection but less sensitivity than thinner-gauge gloves, so the appropriate type should be selected based on the type of work as well as the nature of the hazards present.

Construction workers may deal with heavier and more abrasive materials, and are at risk from wood and metal splinters as well as cuts, scrapes and repetitive motion injuries. Sufficiently thick leather gloves and gloves made from Kevlar or other advanced polymers are necessary for such heavy-duty work. Workers who will be exposed to extreme temperatures, such as those who pack frozen foods, should wear work gloves that insulate against cold temperatures.

Multi-purpose work gloves, which allow for enough dexterity and tactility for a wide range of tasks while providing protection from various kinds of hazards, are often the best option for laborers. Having one sturdy pair rather than a different pair for each type of tasks makes it more convenient for the worker and reduces the risk that he or she will use the wrong kind of glove. By sticking with one flexible pair, the worker will not be at risk of taking off one pair and then forgetting or declining to put on the next when changing tasks.

Workers who handle or are at risk of exposure to hazardous liquids should wear chemical resistant gloves made from synthetic materials. Many liquid chemicals will simply eat through gloves made from more traditional materials, putting the worker at risk for serious burns and other hazards. Glove materials that may provide protection against chemicals include nitrile, latex, neoprene, polyvinylchloride, or other polymers. Nitrile gloves, where appropriate, are the safest option for workers with latex allergies. The glove material and thickness should be selected based on its resistance to the specific chemical or chemicals that are being dealt with. Each chemical’s Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) should provide guidance on selecting the right type of glove. A combination of multiple types may need to be worn simultaneously where the worker faces hazards from more than one chemical.

In addition to selecting the best kind of glove, it is also crucial to inspect gloves before each use to ensure that they will be effective and are not, for instance, worn down or torn. Gloves exposed to contaminants, such as toxic chemicals, must be decontaminated using the appropriate procedures prior to reuse. It is often safer and more cost-effective to replace synthetic gloves rather than attempt to reuse them. All types of work gloves should be replaced regularly, as the integrity of the item is inevitably undermined through use.

Whatever the material, the employer should be aware that gloves must be properly fitted to the individual worker in order for the product to work properly. Gloves that are too loose or too tight may leave exposed areas of skin, produce discomfort or reduce dexterity. Employers may benefit from seeking employee feedback on the efficacy of the gloves used in the workplace as well as what kinds of gloves the workers would most prefer to use. The right pair of work gloves not only protects workers and allows them to function at a high rate of productivity, but also is also comfortable enough that workers will gladly use them without hesitation.

7 Welding Safety Tips You Need to Know Before Firing Up

Welding is the most widely used method for joining metals in today’s metalworking industries. It is highly effective, with welded joints often being stronger than the original separate pieces from which they were formed. However, the intense process of melting down and fusing metal brings up several welding safety issues. Whether gas welding, arc welding, oxygen cutting or arc cutting, welders face dangers such as burns, smoke, fumes, powerful heat and light radiation, and harmful dust. But, when a welder follows the appropriate safety steps, he can weld with confidence. Be mindful of these seven tips before firing up the flame.

1) Always wear a welding mask. Welding requires the worker to keep his face right up close to the welding site as he carefully performs his skilled task. The worker must thus wear proper personal protective equipment (PPE) for the face at all times for safety purposes and to prevent harm from radiant energy as well as weld sparks and splatter. Either a full helmet or a hand shield (handheld iron face protector) may be appropriate depending on the type of welding. Helmets and hand shields protect against arc rays, sparks and splatters that may strike directly against the shield during welding.

2) Protect your eyes. The eyes are at particular risk during the welding process, as serious, permanent damage may occur from any small spark or weld splatter making contact with the eye if the proper safety tips are not followed. Additionally, the eyes are at risk from the intense light that is created by the welding process. Arc flash, a painful eye condition, can result from only a second or two of unprotected eye exposure to arc rays. Helmets and shields should be equipped with a filter shade with an appropriately dark lens. Auto-darkening helmets are useful, as they can quickly adjust based on light conditions. A further layer of eye protection, such as goggles, should be worn to protect against impact hazards such as slag chips and grinding fragments that may ricochet under the helmet.

3) Wear the right clothing. Welding clothing should fully cover your body to guarantee safety. Ultraviolet and infrared rays can painfully damage any exposed skin. All garments should be flame resistant clothing. For instance, denim should be worn as opposed to cotton pants. A welder should wear a welding jacket made of flame-resistant cloth or leather, which offer surefire protection while also providing ease of movement. Heavy-duty welding gloves, which are now available with ergonomically curved fingers, should be worn at all times. Some kind of protective footwear should be worn, such as high-top leather boots to provide the best shielding.

4) Don’t give sparks space to catch. When preparing to weld, a welder should go over all clothing as a safety precaution to check whether there are any small spaces on his person where sparks might catch. Button up shirt collars, cuffs and pockets to avoid giving sparks a place to land and smolder, which may potentially lead to serious burns. Pants legs should go over shoes, and gloves over sleeves. Also, do not carry any lighters or matches, which may ignite when they come into contact with sparks or heat. Cover any garments that are not fireproof with the proper gear, like a welding apron or protective sleeves.

5) Ventilate the workspace. Welding creates smoke and fumes which may accumulate in a workspace and render the air toxic, particularly in confined spaces. Where a workspace is not large enough for natural ventilation to be sufficient, with at least 10,000 square feet of space per welder, then the workspace should contain a means of mechanical ventilation. Either a functioning exhaust hood or a high-vacuum system should be employed to eliminate fumes and maintain enough safely breathable air for all workers. Certain materials may also require additional PPE such as welding respirators to ensure your breathing safety.

6) Know your machine. While basic processes may be similar between different machines, the welder should always know the particular machine he is working with at any given time inside and out. Anyone who uses a machine should consult its manual to understand the mechanics and the particular recommended safety procedures recommended by the manufacturer. This may lead to more efficient as well as safer welding. Maintain a copy of the manual in the workspace for reference.

7) Make safety an ingrained part of the company culture. Proper safety should not be an occasional area of focus in a workplace. Rather, it should be everyone’s first priority and at the forefront of every welder’s mind. Employers should ensure that every employee is familiar with the appropriate safety tips and procedures, and welders should look out for each other to make sure they are always wearing all necessary PPE. With the right knowledge, welding accidents are highly preventable.

5 Confined Space Safety Risks and How to Avoid Them

While the dangerous nature of confined spaces may not be as readily apparent as that of other kinds of workplace safety risks, tightly enclosed areas can, in fact, be fatal. One may encounter confined spaces in virtually any workplace or occupation. Larger industrial or agricultural worksites are particularly likely to contain confined spaces. And unlike other workplace risks that can be mitigated with personal protective equipment like work gloves or safety glasses, this danger requires an entire set of external gear. According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), a space is “confined” if its configuration hinders the activities of employees who must enter, work in, and exit it. For instance, if employees must squeeze in an out or perform their tasks while cramped or contorted, certain risks may arise. The elements of confinement, limited access and restricted airflow, can result in hazardous conditions that would not occur in an open workspace. Identification of confined spaces, application of confined space equipment and recognition of the danger these areas pose is the first and most important step to preventing injuries and fatalities. The following are five of the most common and hazardous confined space safety risks.

1-Oxygen Deficiency

Asphyxiation is the leading cause of death in confined spaces, and a lack of oxygen within the space is the most common cause of confined-space asphyxiation. There is simply less oxygen available within any given confined space than in an open space, and hazards from this oxygen deficiency can occur when there are too many workers in the limited area at once or when a worker has been in the space for too long. Some confined spaces are so naturally oxygen-deficient that workers should not be in them for more than a few minutes at a time otherwise they risk serious safety issues. The proper ventilation products, like confined space blowers, should always be used in such environments.

2-Toxicity

The air in a confined space is sometimes be toxic, containing chemicals or fumes that may lead to deleterious health effects in the long or the short term. Alongside oxygen deficiency, a toxic atmosphere is the leading cause of asphyxiation in confined spaces. Hazardous vapors which might safely dissipate in open air may accumulate in a confined space, creating a harmful, high-risk atmosphere.

3-Getting Stuck

The cramped working environments that personnel in confined spaces face; the even smaller spaces within the confined space that they may have to squeeze through; and the physical contortions they often must put their bodies through can lead to getting stuck. Even where there is enough oxygen in a confined space to make working there safe for a set period of time, the low level of oxygen present relative to open spaces can mean that being stuck there for many hours can lead to oxygen deprivation. Additionally, there is the risk of slipping or falling into tight spaces, such as tapering discharge pipes in water towers, and asphyxiating from the resulting compression of the torso.

4-Uncontrolled Release of Energy

Often, a confined space exists parallel with other hazardous conditions. Risks such as the uncontrolled release of electricity, high-pressure fluids and gases, or mechanical energy often occur in confined spaces. Such uncontrolled releases are even more destructive in confined than in open spaces.

5-Risks from Failure to De-energize Equipment

Employees who work inside pieces of large equipment performing maintenance, repair or related tasks face a particular set of safety risks from the equipment itself. OSHA has documented many tragic incidents involving confined spaces in which victims were burned, ground up by auger type conveyors or battered by rotating parts inside mixers.

OSHA states that confined spaces that contain or have the potential to contain a serious atmospheric hazard such as those listed above should be officially classified as permit-required confined spaces. As such, they should always be tested for the presence of such atmospheric hazards prior to workers entering them. Once employees have entered a confined space, the space’s atmosphere should be continuously monitored to ensure that it remains safe. It is important that confined spaces be as well ventilated as possible in order to provide sufficient oxygen and discourage the accumulation of toxic gases. Employers should be mindful of coexisting hazards such as electrical energy, and should ensure that all equipment within the area is properly de-energized. A worker should never enter a confined space alone; there should always be a buddy or a monitor present. In the event of a confined space emergency, there should always be a rescue plan in place ahead of time. Perhaps most importantly, workers should only be in confined spaces for a restricted period of time.

California-Based Measles Outbreak Reported in 14 States

Throughout the month of January, approximately 84 individuals from 14 different states were reported to have contracted measles as part of a larger outbreak. A majority of these cases are part of a series that originated in the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California. The outbreak is still ongoing, with at least 50 of the measles cases in California linked to Disneyland, while at least 13 cases in other states are linked to the outbreak.

The measles outbreak surfaced among Disneyland visitors who came down with the virus after visiting the park between December 15 and December 20, and cases have continued to be reported since. The measles virus has affected at least five Disneyland employees. Dr. Gil Chavez, deputy director of the Center for Infectious Diseases in California, the state with the highest number of reported cases, has recommended that people who have never had a measles vaccination and children under 12 months do not visit the park while the outbreak is ongoing. Dr. Chavez also recommended that individuals in those categories stay away from places such as airports and shopping malls where large crowds are likely to be present.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued an official Health Advisory to notify public health departments and healthcare facilities about the outbreak and to provide guidance about treatment of the disease. Measles is a respiratory illness caused by an airborne virus similar to influenza. It is highly contagious and may be spread through bodily fluids or through the air when a carrier coughs or sneezes. Symptoms include fever, dry cough, runny nose, skin rash, red eyes, sore throat and little white spots inside the mouth. After the initial symptoms, comes an uncomfortable spot-like rash that covers much of the body. Complications from measles are relatively common, and are usually more severe in adults who catch the virus.

Measles is common around the world, with 20 million new cases reported yearly around the globe. In 2000, the United States declared that measles was eliminated from this country, but travelers with measles can continue to bring the disease to American shores. The United States experienced a record number of measles cases during 2014, with 644 cases from 27 states reported to the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD). The majority of people who contract measles are unvaccinated. Health officials have stated that individuals who have been vaccinated are at little risk from the disease, and would in fact be safe visiting Disneyland in California, the outbreak’s epicenter. However, the disease is extremely contagious to those without immunization. The CDC reports that 90 percent of unvaccinated people in close proximity to an infected person will catch measles.

The current outbreak and the higher number of measles infections in recent years may be attributable to some people declining to have their children immunized. Some parents fear a link between immunization and autism in children, while medical experts have continually asserted that there is no evidence for any such link. According to the CDC, 79 percent of the people who opted out of the measles vaccine in 2013 did so because they did not believe in vaccinations. Amy Schuchat, assistant surgeon general for the United States Public Health Service and the NCIRD, noted that one out of every 12 children are not receiving their measles vaccines on time, rendering them vulnerable to catching and spreading the disease. Schuchat also urges adults who are not sure whether they have been vaccinated for measles to contact their doctor. “There’s no harm in getting another MMR vaccine if you’ve already been vaccinated,” Schuchat noted. Schuchat and other medical authorities state that anyone exhibiting measles-like symptoms, such as skin rash, should seek medical evaluation and treatment.