Archive for November 16, 2018

Preventing Lung Disease on the Job

Today we’re proud to bring you a guest post by Molly McGuane, Communications Specialist for the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center. They’re doing great work and their website is a treasure trove of excellent resources.

 

Everyday the average adult takes in about 17,000-30,000 breaths, inhaling the air around us and exhaling potential toxins that make their way into our body. The natural respiratory process of our bodies does its best to keep the “bad stuff” out, but there are still dangerous toxins from the air around us that can be inhaled and make their way to our organs. It’s important to be cognisant of the quality of air that surrounds us at home and in the workplace to avoid inhaling these damaging toxins.

For those who work in the construction, manufacturing, and mining industries, controlling air quality while on the job is more difficult than in other occupations. When both employers and employees are more aware of the common risks and factors that could hinder lung health, the better they can protect themselves and others.

 

Occupational Asthma

Asthma is a respiratory issue that can arise from many different root causes, but many workers are more at risk of developing occupational asthma while working as drug manufacturers, plastic manufacturers, laboratory workers, or metal workers. Occupational asthma is most common in these workspaces due to proximity to chemical materials, metals, and other products that irritate the lungs.

People are more likely to come down with cases of occupational asthma if they smoke, are more prone to allergies, or have a family history of asthma. The longer they are exposed to asthma causing materials, the more likely they are to have long-lasting asthma that follows them beyond the job. Workers who are at risk should consider wearing a dust or respiratory mask and should monitor their symptoms if they come down with shortness of breath or wheezing. When these symptoms worsen, workers should contact a doctor to assess the need for medication.

 

Asbestos and Lung Cancer

The mineral asbestos is a health issue and carcinogen that affects many professionals who work in in the mining and construction fields. The inhaling of asbestos can lead to lung complications like asbestosis and lung cancer. Mesothelioma cancer is also directly caused by inhaling asbestos, specifically pleural mesothelioma, which originates in the lining of the lungs. Specific professions that came into contact with asbestos were put most at risk because asbestos was commonly used in the past in building materials, pipes, and shipbuilding (among other things). When building and machinery that contained asbestos was deconstructed or broken apart, it left workers vulnerable to breathing in the substance.

Due to the widespread use of asbestos in the past, those who work in these fields should be continuously conscious of where asbestos has the potential to be hiding and what safety precautions should be taken. Many structures from 1930 to the 1980s were built with asbestos containing materials, so knowing the date that the structure was built or last renovated can help narrow down if asbestos was used in the process. Workers should also protect themselves using ventilator masks, like the ones seen here, and protective clothing when possible to limit exposure.

 

Pneumoconiosis and Silicosis

For miners, occupational health has never been a given due to the nature of their working environment. Pneumoconiosis, often known as black lung, is one such disease that occurs from the inhalation of coal dust. This disease generally only arises from prolonged workplace exposure, when coal dust and other particles cause scarring in the lungs which results in difficulty breathing, cough and tightness in the chest. Silicosis is a specific type of pneumoconiosis that occurs from silica dust and is most common in miners, glass workers and masonry workers. Silicosis also causes scarring in the lungs, leading to chest pain and trouble breathing.

For all forms of pneumoconiosis, those affected should see a doctor when they experience symptoms to discuss how to treat their condition and prevent further scarring. Silicosis puts patients at a greater risk for developing serious diseases like lung cancer and tuberculosis, so it’s important to address it early on. There are medicines that can help alleviate pain, like bronchodilators which relax breathing tubes, but preventing too much exposure to silica and other dangerous dust particles is the best thing employees can do. Wearing dust and respiratory masks while working in low ventilated areas can help limit the inhalation of dangerous dusts, as well as not bringing clothes from work home without washing them, to spare your family from any contact.

Lung Cancer Awareness Month is all November long, so now is the time to take a stand for your lung health. Adults spend a majority of their day at work providing for their families and themselves, so the quality of the air surrounding them is of the utmost importance. Those most at risk should be aware of the conditions that could arise in their work environment. For most lung scarring and damage, there is no real “cure,” but merely monitoring these diseases so they don’t worsen. Taking safety precautions and preventive measures is the best way to keep dangerous materials out of the body.

Nail Gun Safety

Nail guns are one of the most widely used tools for woodworking projects in both professional and personal contexts. Their user-friendly and intuitive nature lets the user drive far more nails per hour than with a hammer alone. That convenience can obscure the fact that nail guns are still extremely dangerous tools. They must be used with both caution and confidence to ensure a job done both safely and well. Every year, tens of thousands of nail gun-related injuries occur. It’s an all-too-common sight in emergency rooms to see someone come in with a nail through their hand, and these injuries are perfectly avoidable. With the help of our friends at Backyard Boss, we’re bringing you a basic rundown of nail gun safety today.

Different nail guns are available for different jobs, and it’s important to know which is right for you. The two main types of guns are electrically and pneumatically powered. Electric guns are the simplest and most common, although it’s important to check that any extension cord you use is rated for the same amperage that the gun needs. There are also cordless guns with rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Pneumatic guns use compressed air to propel the nail, and are significantly more powerful and less common.

A while back, OSHA and NIOSH developed an excellent nail gun safety handbook with six steps that employers can take to improve safety on their watch:

  1. Use nail guns with a full sequential trigger – This type of trigger will reduce the risk of unintentional nail discharge and double fire, which includes bumping into co-workers.
  2. Provide adequate training – Everyone benefits from training. Employers should provide hands-on training, including operation, loading the nail gun, air compressor operation, awkward positions, and what to do when a nail gun malfunctions.
  3. Establish work procedures – Creating a step-by-step procedure for handling, operating, and storing nail guns will make the workplace safe and reduce employee injuries.
  4. Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) – Workers should be provided and required to wear steel-toed boots, a hard hatsafety glasses that meet ANSI Z87.1 impact standards, and earplugs or earmuffs while operating a nail gun. You can find great options in our store.
  5. Encourage employees to discuss the importance of nail gun safety – employees should be active in making sure fellow employees are following proper nail gun operating procedures.
  6. Provide adequate first aid supplies and immediate medical treatment immediately following nail gun injuries.

They also offered some solid guidelines for what not to do when working with nail guns.

  • Never bypass or disable nail gun safety features, including removing the spring from the safety-contact tip, or securing the trigger so it does not need to be pressed.
  • Never keep your finger on the trigger when holding or carrying a nail gun that is not in use.
  • Never lower the nail gun from above or drag it by the air hose.
  • Never operate a nail gun with your non-dominant hand.

The design of some guns can unintentionally encourage dangerous habits to develop. It’s important to always be fully cognizant of your equipment and of how you interact with it, in the same way that you should think critically about your driving habits. Engaging thoughtfully with the tools you use every day is also a stepping stone to being more engaged with your environment more generally. Nail gun injuries are rarely fatal, but they are traumatic and potentially career-ending, so it’s vital to be alert and engaged.

Check out the article from Danielle McLeod at Backyard Boss for more great tips about nail guns, and click here to download OSHA’s handbook “Nail Gun Safety: A Guide for Construction Contractors.”

The ABC’s of Fall Protection

Here at Enviro Safety Products, one of our top concerns is fall protection. It’s estimated that the new fall regulations that OSHA introduced last autumn (where does the time go, right?) affected 112 million workers at 6.9 million establishments. To be fair to the employers, that doesn’t necessarily mean that every single one of those people were risking life and limb completely unprotected. Most employers are conscientious of fall risk and provide protection equipment. But we have learned more about how to best implement fall protection and that new knowledge was incorporated into the standards, which had a wide effect on the industry.

 

For us, safety literacy is a major focus. We don’t just want customers to come here to shop, we want to help them learn what’s best for them and their workers. That means providing resources they can consult when they’re in need of guidance to make the right purchasing choices. For fall protection, we’ve developed a convenient acronym, the ABC’s of fall protection:

 

Anchorage

Body harness

Connector

Descent and rescue

Education

Fall protection for tools

 

Anchorage is the most fundamental aspect of fall protection. The anchorage point is where the system connects to the larger structure. They typically take the form of a metal ring attached to a cable choker, fixed beam, or concrete strap that then anchors to the structure. They are designed to be independent of other anchorage elements, and are typically rated to support 5,000 lbs. They must be installed with qualified supervision.

Body harnesses are the instantly recognizable body-cradling straps that provide the first line of defense. They support the user while they work and keep them suspended in the event of a fall. Many varieties are available, typically featuring D-rings on the back and hips to attach lifelines, lanyard, and tools, as well as an impact indicator that shows at a glance if the harness has been worn in a fall (at which point it is discarded).

Connectors provide the vital link between the anchorage and the harness. The two basic categories are lanyards and self-retracting lifelines (SRLs). Both of them must have the ability to absorb and neutralize the dangerous forces that a falling body generates. Lanyards do the job with stretchable core material, while SRLs have a sophisticated locking mechanism in the spool that halts the fall’s progress as soon as it detects the speed increase. Both of these inventions absorb the arrest forces to prevent injury.

Descent and rescue is a term for systems that allow for easy and safe descent from elevated areas, particularly in delicate situations that require quick escape. Using SRL technology in tandem with independent standing support, descent and rescue systems can allow for automatic controlled descent on sloped surfaces.

Education is a huge part of keeping your employees safe. If they don’t understand how their fall protection works or why it’s important, it will be more difficult to keep the workforce compliant with the law. Corners will be cut, and accidents will happen. To prevent tragedy, build and maintain a robust culture of accountability in the workplace, and encourage questions about the particulars of fall protection.

Fall protection for tools is also important. Certain harnesses will have rings or hooks that can attach to tools. That way, if a tool is dropped, it can be retrieved without having to descend to the ground, and will not be dangerous to anyone walking below. There is also a hoistable bucket available for holding large amounts of tools and supplies.

 

This acronym provides a basic framework that can be used to build a fall protection program for any workplace. Fostering a strong environment of mutual support and inquiry will go a long way toward keeping everyone safe at work, as will making sure all bases are covered when buying and implementing protection equipment.