Archive for April 24, 2015

Proper Lifting Techniques According to OSHA

At virtually any workplace involving physical labor, workers will need to know the proper lifting techniques so as not to harm their backs, legs, or other body parts. Just because a worker is strong enough to pick up an object, that does not mean that the act cannot result in injury. Luckily, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a set list of techniques for making lifting tasks more manageable; however, adherence to these guidelines isn’t always perfect. Figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2001 indicate that heavy lifting is in fact one of the leading causes of workplace injury. The statistics revealed that approximately 36 percent of injuries leading to missed work days were the result of shoulder and back injuries. The most significant contributing factors in such injuries were overexertion and cumulative trauma, which occur from not employing the proper techniques for heavy lifting.

While heavy lifting will always be physically impactful, prudent precautions and proper technique can ease the resulting strain on the body and help to prevent common injuries such as back sprains, muscle pulls, and injuries to the spine, elbow, and wrist. OSHA has issued a series of detailed recommendations to provide guidance for safe lifting techniques. Where such actions are necessary, following some of these simple tips may be a crucial step in preventing potentially debilitating injuries.

Ergonomic Movement

Safe lifting starts with the proper ergonomic techniques, according to OSHA. As a rule of thumb, it is best for workers to lift with their legs, although this may vary depending on the circumstance. Workers should do their best to pick up objects within their “power zone,” which may be defined as an area close to the body, between the worker’s mid-thigh and mid-chest. Workers should avoid stretching beyond the power “zone.” For instance, workers starting a lift below mid-thigh height put unnecessary stress on the legs, knees, and back. Meanwhile, completing a lift above shoulder-height can strain the upper back, arms, and shoulders. To properly lift an item from a lower location, workers should move the object close to their body and lift with their legs as a safety technique. OSHA recommends that workers should keep their bodies straight and avoid any awkward twisting while lifting heavy objects. It is also useful for workers to keep their elbows close to their sides in order to keep the heavy load as close to their bodies as possible. It may also be preferable for workers to bend at the waist instead of the knees to keep the load close.

Placement of Objects

Another important technique in properly lifting items begins with how the goods are stored. Any steps that minimize bending and reaching reduce strain on the back and other muscles involved with lifting. It is prudent for workers to store heavy objects on shelves and tables that are at least waist-height, to make them easier to access. Objects that will be frequently moved or retrieved should be placed at “power height” for optimal lifting convenience, according to OSHA’s technique guidelines.

Avoid Sustained or Repeated Exertion

Many lifting-related injuries are not the result of a single action performed without the proper OSHA-recommended techniques, but rather developed in response to regular or sustained exertion. Holding items for a long time in a particular position enhances the risk of injury as muscles are sapped of nutrients and waste products build up internally. Frequent, repeated exertion, such as yanking wire, fatigues muscles by not allowing recovery time. Workers can avoid these hazards by working in teams and rotating tasks so that no one worker is stuck doing the same thing for too long. Workers can also mount certain heavy items, such as fixtures, to avoid having to hold them excessively.

Whether your team engages in heavy lifting every day, or just on random occasions, teaching them the proper techniques according to OSHA can help everyone prevent unnecessary injuries on the job.

5 Easy Spring Work Safety Tips

Spring — with the sense of renewal, energy, and optimism that it brings — is the perfect time for cleaning and reorganizing. A tidy and presentable workplace facility presents a positive image of your company, and has been shown to boost employee conscientiousness, morale, and pride. Spring cleaning is also a great opportunity to reassess the safety of your work facility. Rejuvenate your facility this season with these spring safety tips.

Establish Safety Goals

The first spring tip is to occupy the right mindset and make safety your goal. Cultivate a belief that your workplace can always be safer, and there is no excuse for unsafe practices. Making a to-do list is a prudent next step. Before you dive into your spring cleaning safety project, it helps to have a clear picture of your goals and the particular steps you will take to go about achieving them, as well as a realistic timeframe for completing them. In your interactions with staff, demonstrate that you value worker safety to make sure they know that it is a top priority and that you are not simply paying lip service to the concept. For instance, praise workers for following safety regulations, and follow them yourself without exception.

Offer Training Refreshers

The season of renewal is a good opportunity to retrain your staff on safe workplace practices. Remember common sense isn’t always common practice. Even the most seasoned worker may need a reminder about how to perform his or her job with the proper precautions. Whether it’s how to properly insert ear plugs or what to do in case of a fire, reiterating safety tips is especially helpful in the spring when warm weather begins to present new working environments. If the season brings new hiring, be sure to hire smart; make sure new hires are competent enough to work safely and have the right attitude toward safe work practices. It may also be helpful to solicit workers’ concerns about safety in the facility and to act on their suggestions. They are the ones in the trenches, after all.

Check Equipment Quality

If you expect employees to work safely, you must make sure they have the appropriate tools. Inspect all workplace equipment and tools to make sure they are functioning properly. Consult the products’ maker to check that you are up to date with the latest information about using the devices safely, and to see whether any are due for official inspection or replacement. Also, inspect personal protective equipment (PPE) and other safety gear to make sure that it complies with OSHA regulations and recommendations, as well as more general safety standards. Replace any PPE that you provide yourself, such as work gloves, that have become worn with frequent use over the previous weeks or months.

Watch Out For Facility Hazards

Inspect the work facility itself as well. You will want to see that there are no obvious hazards and that the facility is organized in the most sensible way. For example, make sure that any storage areas are arranged tidily so that employees know to put materials in their designated spaces and do not leave them lying around to become trip hazards. Check that boxes and equipment are not stacked in such a way that they may tumble and cause injury. Note whether there is sufficient signage providing workers’ instruction on safe work practices and proper use of equipment. This spring safety tip can help keep your workplace accident-free and productive.

Start Taking Notes

Maintain records of any safety mishaps that occur. Where any incident occurs, even if it does not result in serious injury, perform an investigation to discover why it happened and to determine how to prevent it from happening again. Dutifully note all first aid treatments, inspections, incident investigations, and safety training activities in your record books. Make sure that these safety records are well-maintained, organized and easily legible for quick reference or inspection.

Following these spring safety tips should, at the very least, act as a great starting point for your journey to a safer workplace this season. Let’s get to it!

The Best Gear & Safety Tips For Working in the Rain

Nobody likes waking up to a downpour on a weekday. But with the right rain safety tips, you won’t have to let a little drizzle stop you from getting in a hard day’s work. When soggy weather strikes, make sure you have the right gear at the ready. Utilizing effective products not only helps keep you dry and comfortable, it also protects you from the safety hazards created by wet conditions. OSHA requires that employers pay for personal protective equipment, including rain gear. As spring brings in those April showers, don’t skimp on safety: stock up on these key rain wear products and keep these tips in mind.

Waterproof Boots

Your basic, go-to protective work boot should always be waterproof. Boots made from natural or treated leather stay sturdy in damp weather. Your boots should also have thick rubber soles with sturdy grips to help prevent slippage. Slips and falls are some of the most common workplace accidents and can lead to serious and costly injury, particularly when working from heights. Surfaces, especially common industrial work surfaces, such as metal, can become slippery in the wet conditions. A good, well-made pair of waterproof work boots can help ensure your safety in the rain. (Plus, it’s no fun working in damp socks.)

Waterproof Gloves

A hammer that slips through your fingers can be damaging to your toes, or, worse, the head of a coworker below you. Prevent the precipitation from giving you a slippery grip with a pair of waterproof palm coated work gloves. For extra protection, select a variety with added features such as “gripper dots” on the interior. Nylon and pigskin leather are reliable, breathable materials for waterproof gloves. For cold winter conditions, select a thicker variety with fleece lining for added warmth. For precision work, chose a close-to-the-hand-fit. Whatever variety you select, this is one rain safety tip that can make working with your hands so much easier.

Rain Suits

For steady downpours, it’s best to suit up with heavy duty rain gear. Cover your full exterior with a long waterproof jacket. Unless you like wet jeans, it’s best to add waterproof pants as well. For outdoor work such as construction, landscaping, trades or resources, rain suits are an absolute necessity. They are available in different materials, and the kind you ought to select is often a question of personal preference.

Nylon and polyester rain gear is breathable, so you won’t get too hot. It’s also lightweight and flexible, so it’s easy to pack up and throw on in a pinch. However, the convenience is offset by the fact that it is not always 100 percent waterproof after it has been soaked for a while, so the clothes you wear underneath may wind up damper than you would like. The alternative option is PVC. PVC rain gear is essentially a cotton or polyester shell that’s coated on the outside with a material similar to rubber. Models made from PVC is heavier, thicker, and slightly more cumbersome. On the plus side, its thickness makes it more durable, and it is completely immune to being soaked through. PVC is often the best choice for long-term, heavy-duty jobs.

Water Repellent

Waterproof gear is the first and most crucial step. But for added protection, or when protected gear just isn’t available, spray or lightly smear a silicone-based water repellent on any fabric or non-patent leather fibers — such as boots, gloves, and belts — that will be facing rain exposure.
Making sure you have the best waterproof gear is the first step to ensuring injury-free work in inclement weather. However, one of the most important rain safety tips is to work carefully and at a slow, yet steady pace. Even the most advanced equipment can’t mitigate the risks of sloppy procedures. Make sure all your employees are aware of best practices for doing their unique jobs in the rain.

Work Boot Care: 4 Tips for Extending the Life of Your Footwear

At the end of a hard day on the job, nothing has been hit as hard as your work boots. They protect your feet from dropped tools, falling debris and flying sparks, and they trudge through dirt, dust, mud, rocks and whatever substances your workplace might throw at your feet. Outdoors, they fend off rain, snow, ice, slush and all of nature’s toughest elements, keeping your feet dry all the while. Repay the favor with these tips for proper work boot care.
To start with, take care to select a strong, quality leather work boot that’s tough yet comfortable. This is not a piece of work equipment you’ll want to skimp on. Good protective work boots aren’t cheap, but a well-made pair can, with the right care, provide quality foot protection for a couple of years, even with frequent hard use. Follow these four tips to extend the life of your most important footwear.

1. Clean the Exterior

Like work gloves or other protective apparel that regularly sees a lot of action, your footwear requires consistent external care. Remove any visible dirt, grime or debris from the work boot at the end of each day. This may seem like a no-brainer, but many people wait too long to clean their shoes. As a result, certain material that may be stuck to the boot, such as mud and concrete, can harden over time, making it more difficult to remove, discoloring the shoe’s exterior, and even negatively impacting the boot’s performance.

2. Break Out That Oil

Oiling your work boots with great care is possibly the most important step in maintaining them, but it is also one of the most neglected. The oiling process is easy, so there is no excuse for skipping this step. Choosing a quality boot oil product, such as mink oil, is just as important as selecting a quality shoe. Apply softly, using your hands or a small boot brush. Be sure to rub in well at the seams. Allow to dry for a few minutes, then wipe off any excess oil with a soft towel or rag. Oiling your boots will improve the performance, appearance and comfort of your footwear. Take care to oil your work boots at regular intervals for a surprisingly long shelf life. For a polished appearance, buff the leather afterwards with a soft rag using long, circular strokes.

3. Weatherproof

Many of the better boot brands contain weatherproof exteriors and interiors made from materials such as Gor-tex for high-performance in wet conditions. However, over time, your cold weather work boots could use some care to ensure they stay as dry as possible. Remove the insoles and coat the interior of the boot with a weatherproofing spray and spray around the lace area as well. This step is particularly important during winter months when you may be wearing your boots steeped in snow or standing water for extended periods.

4. Store Your Boots Properly

Properly storing your work boots when you are not using them can significantly extend their life. Putting a shoetree inside the boot helps to maintain its shape and smooth out the lining and insoles, enhancing the boot’s comfort and appearance. Shoetrees can also break in new footwear, helping to prevent the discomfort and blisters that often accompany the first few wearings of a new pair. A cedar shoetree provides the additional benefit of wicking action, absorbing moisture, acids and salts from the shoe’s interior, helping to ensure a dry boot. If you are working several days a week, you should own at least two pairs of boots, and rotate wearing them daily. This kind of care helps to extend the life of each pair, and ensures that the work boots have sufficient time to dry between each use.