Archive for March 27, 2015

Preventing Slips and Falls in the Workplace

All it takes is a moment’s inattention. Someone calls our name, something out of the corner of our eye catches our attention, we switch our glance away from where we’re going for a second, and BAM! — we slip on some spilled liquid or trip on a rogue object and fall flat. However, preventing slips and falls in the workplace can be fairly simple with the right tools. On the surface, trips may not seem like the most worrisome workplace accidents. Common causes of slips, such as uneven flooring, may not be noticeable or may not seem particularly hazardous — especially in work environments that feature more blatant dangers, such as industrial worksites. But ignore such dangers at your peril!

The Cost of Workplace Slips

Without adequate prevention measures, slips, trips, and falls can lead to serious, even debilitating injury, as well as loss of workplace productivity and steep cost. In fact, such tumbles constitute the majority of general industry accidents and lead to nearly 8.6 million visits to the emergency room annually. Recordable slips and falls lead to 11 days away from work and $40,000 per incident, on average. They are also a common source of costly and time-consuming lawsuits. Protect your workplace by following these steps to prevent dangerous slips.

Fall Training

One of the most important steps to preventing slips and falls in the workplace is to train your employees. Knowledge is often the best safeguard against danger, while ignorance is often the cause of preventable accidents. Teach your employees to look out for and report common hazards. In workspaces where spills are common, such as kitchens, it may be prudent to advise or require employees to wear non-slip shoes.

Inspect Your Workplace

Perform a thorough assessment of your workplace with an eye toward any existing or potential slip and fall hazards that can be prevented. As a general rule, it is important to ensure that your facility is well organized and uncluttered. This will make inspection for hazards easier, and will reduce the chance of stray objects, such as tools, winding up on the floor where they don’t belong, creating a slip waiting to happen.

For a start, mark any uneven floor surfaces, such as areas where the floor changes gradation to an upward slant, with bright, photoluminescent warning tape. Also, use prominent labels to denote spaces for proper equipment storage to keep them from turning pathways into inadvertent obstacle courses. At construction and industrial sites, it is a good idea to use anti-skid floor tape to add traction to slippery surfaces, such as metal. Non-slip safety matting is also a good solution for creating traction on otherwise slick walkways. The stairs are a particularly common site of preventable falls, so be sure to make stair treads as slip-resistant as possible. Consider marking your stairs with anti-skid cleats.

Brighten Up

Poor lighting is correlated with increased accidents in the workplace. Preventing such accidents begins by making sure that all areas are properly lit so that employees can see where they are going and that any emergent slip and fall hazards, such as stray objects or cracks in the ground, are highly visible. Whatever the workspace, there is no excuse for insufficient lighting.

Where there is a temporary slip hazard, such as a spill that needs to be mopped up or an area of floor or ground under construction, cordon off the area with bright barricade tape or post cones or floor stands in strategic positions around the area. In regions of the workplace where there is a more general or long-term risk, be sure to post prominent signage to warn employees of the danger.

Be Consistent With Maintenance

It is helpful to establish a routine for speedily detecting and cleaning up any spills or leaks that occur in order to prevent consequential slips and falls. This is especially critical in workplaces that truck in a lot of liquid around. Do not attempt to clean up oil-based spills with water, since that will only widen the slippery area. Stay stocked with necessary spill containment equipment such as mops, sponges and absorbent pads.

Slips off of scaffolds and ladders can pose an even higher risk of injury than slips on the floor. Regularly inspects scaffolds and ladders to ensure that they are sturdy and safe. Inspection tags can help by marking the date of the last inspection, the name of the employee who conducted it and the date when the next inspection is due. As the latter date approaches, keep an eye peeled for any signs of wear and proceed with due caution.

After you have performed the recommended alterations to your workplace, keep preventing falls and slips by conducting regular inspections to ensure that the facility has maintained the new safety levels you have achieved.

5 Surprising Scenarios That Require Respiratory Protection

Everyone knows that respiratory protection is crucial to the health and even survival of workers in many fields. Where toxic materials, such as gas or chemicals, are present, heavy-duty coverage, in the form of a respirator kit, for instance, is a legal, ethical, (and sometimes mortal) necessity. But many more situations than one might expect call for breathing protection. Here are five perhaps unpredictable examples of scenarios requiring respiratory protection, some of which anyone might encounter in the ordinary course of life.

Being Sick

Around cold and flu season, have you ever noticed people going about their day wearing healthcare masks covering their nose and mouth? You might imagine they used this respiratory protection to save themselves from breathing in airborne pathogens. On the contrary, it is more likely they were trying to protect you, and everyone else, from catching a bug they were battling themselves. Surgical masks are designed to trap respiratory secretions (including bacteria and viruses) expelled by the wearer and prevent disease or virus transmission to others. Masks prevent the spread of flu in the workplace and beyond by stopping the wearer’s cough or sneeze from spraying droplets on those around them. Wearing a mask for respiratory protection around the workplace when ill is a considerate step that may help stymy the spread of bothersome contagions.

Disaster Relief

Disasters such as hurricanes, floods and fires turn once-sturdy structures into debris, and such particulates call for significant respiratory protection in the form of dust mask respirators. In addition to wearing the proper work gloves, volunteers or employees who are cleaning out debris or recouping homes should be cautious of the inhalable airborne particles, such dust and mold spores that are stirred up when buildings are knocked down or grow when they are waterlogged. Such inhalable materials can produce coughing or breathing problems, particularly for those with allergies or asthma. Additionally, clean-up crews should protect their eyes from such harmful objects with a durable pair of safety glasses. Workers should be sure to use respiratory protection, especially around older homes, which may contain asbestos and lead-based paint that may be breathed in as dust.

Landscaping/Gardening

As healthful as a breath of fresh air might be, it can also pose hazards in the form of allergens. From pollen to ragweed to spores from various trees, grasses and molds, the natural world, while beautiful, is full of things that can make us sniffle and sneeze – or worse – without the right respiratory protection. A day of gardening or landscaping can lead to severe reactions in those who suffer from even mild seasonal allergies. Those using powerful mechanical equipment such as lawnmowers or hedge trimmers are at particular risk, as such machines stir up large clouds of inhalable allergens around their operators. A filtering mask or respirator can help ensure that a day in the garden remains pleasant or a hard day’s work outside less burdensome.

Welding

There are dozens of welding safety tips you should know before undertaking any such task and respiratory protection is certainly one of them. Welding, or the process of joining metals by causing coalescence using a source of intense heat, can be a dangerous job. However, the hazards one typically associates with the process most likely relate to the high temperatures, flammable sparks and arc flashes it can produce. One might not realize that welding creates metal fumes that pose an equally real danger when inhaled. To avoid lung damage, prudent workers wear a welding respirator for breathing protection. Disposable respirators, which are small enough to fit under protective welding helmets, are a popular choice.

Working with Animals

Those who work with animals may develop debilitating allergies to them over time. While some estimate that as many of 15 percent of the human population is allergic to some animal species, the estimate is as high as 40 percent for those who regularly work with animals as part of their occupation, such as researchers or animal care providers. Asthma sufferers in particular put themselves at health risk by working with animals they are allergic to. Experts recommend wearing some form of respiratory protection, such as a ventilated hood, when working directly with animals one is allergic to. When not wearing a hood, workers should wear an approved NIOSH certified N95 respirator when in the animal facility.

How the Right Type of Ear Plug Can Save Your Hearing

Annually, about 30 million individuals in America are exposed to hazardous noise at their place of work. Without the presence of ear plugs, such exposure can wreak serious damage on workers’ hearing. For more than a quarter of a decade, occupational hearing loss has been listed as one of the nation’s most prevalent occupational health concerns. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that since 2004, approximately 125,000 workers have suffered significant, permanent hearing loss as a result of occupational exposure to high noise levels. Short-term exposure to loud noise can produce temporary loss or disabling of hearing, or it may produce tinnitus (a ringing in the ears). Exposure to high levels of noise can also cause permanent, irreversible hearing loss, remediable by neither hearing aids nor surgery. The risk of permanent damage is greater with repeated or regular exposure, as at a noisy workplace.

Wearing the right type of ear plugs can help to preserve your hearing ability in both the short and the long term. If the noise or sound level at your workplace exceeds 85 decibels (A-weighted), you are at risk of hearing damage without earplugs. If you have to shout to be heard by a coworker standing at arm’s length, or if you experience a ringing or humming in your ears after leaving work, it is a sure sign that the noise level is high enough at your place of work to make ear plugs a wise choice.

To ensure comfort and hearing protection, select the right type of ear plug for you and your particular working environment. Ear plugs — as distinguished from other hearing protection devices (HPDs), such as industrial protective ear muffs — are inserted directly into the ear canal. Plugs are generally inexpensive and simple to use. Also, ear plugs are often more comfortable to wear than muffs or noise canceling electronic headsets, particularly in hot or damp work areas.

Pre molded ear plugs are preformed and rigid, typically made from plastic. This type is often mass-produced to fit any ear, though such plugs will generally fit some ears more effectively than others. Customized plugs molded from plastic to form your own ear canal can provide improved comfort and hearing protection. Premolded ear plugs are often reusable.

Moldable ear plugs, typically made of foam, adjust their shape to cleave to the walls of the ear canal of whoever is wearing them. They are also softer than pre-molded ear plugs, and so may be more comfortable to wear. Moldable ear plugs are available in multiple sizes to fit different ear canals, and they can provide the highest level of hearing protection. This particular type is disposable.

Hearing bands feature ear plugs are held over the ends of the canal by a rigid headband. They do not penetrate as deeply, and so do not provide the same level of protection as other kinds of ear plugs. They are similar to other types of protection, like corded ear plugs, in that they keep both ends of the device together at all times, lowering the potential for loss. This type of ear plug is easier to remove, and so it may be a preferable choice where noise will be only intermittent.

Earplugs and other HPDs can be a crucial part of a workplace’s effective hearing conservation program, but they should not constitute the worker’s only defense against noise. Several engineering and administrative controls can and should be put into place to reduce the amount of hazardous noise at the workplace. It is the employer’s duty to ensure that the workplace noise level does not exceed the legal limit, determined by OSHA, of 90 dBA over an 8-hour day. Where noise levels approach the limit, employers should take measures to minimize the hearing loss risks faced by workers. For instance, where applicable, employers can reduce sound by maintaining and lubricating noisy equipment, enclosing or isolating the source, and limiting the amount of time workers spend near the originator.

Where ear plugs are called for, the best type for you may vary depending on the individual. OSHA requires employers to offer a “variety of suitable hearing protectors” to noise-exposed workers. Studies have shown that workers who choose their own versions often have improved hearing protection. If one type of plug doesn’t work for you, try another — it could save your hearing!