A Good Basic Safety and Health Induction

Walt Disney once said regarding criticism, “Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long… we keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

Safety is about curiosity. It’s about seeking to improve by questioning, inquiring; it’s not about blaming others or perpetually finding faults with systems; it begins with a curiosity to change things for the better, making a safer workplace for all.

There is no job so urgent that we don’t have time to do it safely.

Manual Handling, Sprain and Strain Injuries

The prevention of sprain and strain injuries[1] represents one of our biggest opportunities to reduce injuries. We need to look after our backs, shoulders, knees, and other joints and muscles etc. Our retirement years ought to be the best they can be, but if we haven’t looked after our bodies it’ll be worth less to us.

Proper human movement is about correct technique where muscles are used and there is less strain on connective tissue (ligaments and tendons) to do the work. If you get a sore back it can be due to overused ligaments or tendons (tendonitis) and disproportionate spinal disc loading, leading to more serious problems. We need to look after our bodies if we’re to age gracefully!

Correct lifting involves:

– keeping the spine’s natural “S” curve as much as possible by bending the knees and keeping the back straight;

– creating a bridge (shoulder width stance);

– grasping the object with a good, safe grip;

– keeping the head looking slightly up (keeping the curve in the cervical spine); and

– ensuring there’s no twist in the spine as we lift.

We need to plan the lift, and employ team lifting and mechanical aids wherever possible. It’s good to stretch several times a day especially when we use repetitive movements or sit at a computer.

Ergonomics

Akin to the more chronic type of strain or sprain injury, ergonomics is the fit of the worker to the workplace (environment) and the work (procedures) in creating behaviour. People often focus on the potential for other safety incidents and ergonomics is frequently forgotten.

Ergonomic workstations assessments are a key injury prevention strategy, especially for office-based workers. Many office workers have suffered repetitive strain injury (RSI), otherwise known as Occupational Overuse Syndrome (OOS). Once someone has a musculoskeletal illness or disease it can take months and even years to properly heal. Prevention is far better than cure.

Alcohol and Other Drugs

Every responsible employer has an Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy. In our society the use and abuse of these substances creates problems in every workplace.

The main issue is impairment. If someone is impaired by alcohol or other drugs in the workplace they place both themselves and others at risk of serious injury, even death.

Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) are critical in both the proactive treatment of dependency to substances, and for rehabilitation. Company policies focus on education, and empowering employees to self-identify and self-manage substance use and abuse issues.

Disciplinary issues are the last resort, but are often required in managing affected employees through rehabilitation.

Hazard Resolution

Resolving hazards and reducing risks in the workplace is critical–we all play a part. If you can fix a hazard or make it safe you need to do that first, and then report it. Don’t forget to involve your Safety and Health Representative. Safety Committees also have a role to address these issues.

There should be no safety issue that can’t be resolved to all parties’ satisfaction, and an escalating process can help achieve this.

Take Five Program and Risk Management

TAKE 5 in your work. Stop and think before each task to try and identify what could go wrong. If in doubt, simply ask. Involve your supervisor if you feel there is risk of injury or harm in the work you’re doing.

Risk management is three simple steps: hazard identification, risk assessment and control. Hazards should be assessed for both likelihood (how often you’re exposed to the hazard COMBINED with the probability of it occurring) and consequence.

Risk management’s main objective is to reduce both likelihood and consequence, but minimising consequences of incidents always prevails because people will always make errors and mistakes.

Employee Duty of Care

This means you must:

– Care for your own safety and that of others.

– Comply with ALL instructions you’re given to protect the safety of yourself and others.

– Use ALL equipment (including Personal Protective Equipment) appropriately and as trained and instructed.

– Report EVERY incident, whether it’s an injury/illness, near-miss, or property damage.

Emergency Information

Know your key emergency numbers and procedures. You never know when you’ll need them. Alarms are tested at regular times each week.

Work Controls

Know your work controls. The company will provide the relevant training in work permitting systems, as required and appropriate.

Summary

Remember, there is no job so urgent that we don’t have time to do it safely. You do not need to take short cuts for any reason. Ensure you carry out all your duties responsibly, reporting to your supervisor any situation causing concern.

ENDNOTE:

[1] Sprain injuries occur to harder connective tissue i.e. ligaments and tendons. Strain injuries occur to soft tissue i.e. muscles; muscles recover from injury approximately 4-5 times quicker than connective tissue does.

What Are Enhanced Visibility Work Uniforms & Who Should Wear Them?

The safety of employees working at airports as part of ground crews and in the road construction industry are partially addressed by work uniform visibility requirements established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the US Highway Administration, including standards like ANSI/ISEA 107 for “high-visibility” clothing and required wearers to prevent accidents that could cause serious injury.

But what about other somewhat hazardous industries that don’t fall under these high visibility regulations, such as non-road construction, manufacturing, warehousing and distribution, automotive, transportation, and package delivery?

Employees in these and other industries that operate near moving vehicles or equipment, who work at night or work under weather conditions making them harder to see, can also be protected by “enhanced visibility” work uniforms.

The option of enhanced visibility work uniform rental programs can further protect your at-risk employees than purchasing them in some circumstances, and be more cost-effective in the long run.

What’s the Difference Between High & Enhanced Visibility?

As previously mentioned, the requirements of high visibility jackets and other apparel items are covered by ANSI standards and include using one of three colors for fluorescent background material behind the reflective fabric: red, orange-red and yellow-green. Thus, if you see one of these colors on a reflective work uniform, you know it’s high-visibility.

Enhanced visibility uniforms do not have to meet ANSI standards, but they do stand out with reflective striping in bright colors along the sleeves, across the front and back of shirts, and around pant legs.

Renting vs. Buying

Some employers purchase enhanced visibility safety vests for their workers, but often quickly have problems ensuring that they’re worn at all times, stay clean and aren’t lost – all of which defeats the original purpose.

Because it’s what they wear to work instead of something to wear over their street clothes, workers wearing enhanced visibility uniforms cannot just take them off whenever they feel like it. Rental services also ensure that employees always have clean uniforms for every day of the week.

Rental vs. Workplace Injury Costs

While it’s hard to estimate, the prevention of a single injury is likely worth the additional cost – certainly, lower workers compensation costs, insurance premiums and avoiding OSHA fines is also appealing.

According to OSHA, “One widely-cited source regarding estimates of the magnitude of these costs is the Liberty Mutual Research Institute, which reports the direct cost of the most disabling workplace injuries in 2008 to be $53 billion (Liberty Mutual Research Institute, 2010).

“Another source, the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI), estimates the annual workers’ compensation benefits paid for all compensable injuries and illnesses in 2009 at $58 billion (National Academy of Social Insurance, 2011). NASI further reports the total costs paid by employers for workers’ compensation increased from $60 billion in 2000 to $74 billion in 2009.”

Excavation Safety Risks

Construction projects involving excavation and trenching are among the most hazardous workplace activities. An excavation is defined as any man-made cut, cavity, trench, or depression that is formed by earth removal. The term “trench” is specific to underground excavations that are deeper than it is wide, being no wider than 15 feet. The fatality rate for all types of excavation work is 112% higher than that of general industry (U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration). Given this high level of danger, it’s critical that safety precautions and controls be used at all times and that extreme caution and patience be exercised when working in and around pits and excavations.

Types of Excavation Risk

Cave-ins pose the greatest risk and are the most likely type of excavation-related incident to result in fatalities. Other potential hazards associated with excavation include:

• Falls into trenches or excavations

• Tripping over equipment, debris and spoil

• Excavated material or other objects falling on workers

• Exposure to underground services or overhead lines

• Mishandled or poorly placed materials

• Difficulty breathing due to noxious gases or lack of oxygen

• Toxic, irritating, or explosive gases

• Vehicles and mobile equipment

Mitigating the Risk

The two basic methods of protecting workers against cave-ins are sloping and temporary protective structures.

Sloping involves cutting back the trench wall at an angle that is inclined away from the work area of the excavation. The appropriate angle of the slope depends on the soil conditions at the site of excavation.

Temporary protective structures are designed to provide protection from cave-ins, collapse, sliding or rolling materials. Examples of temporary protective structures include shoring, trench boxes, pre-fabricated systems, hydraulic systems, and engineering systems.

Shoring is a system that supports the sides or walls and normally requires the use of aluminum, steel, or wood panels that are supported by screws or hydraulic jacks. Shoring should be done in conjunction with the progression of the excavation. If there is any delay between digging and shoring, no workers should enter the unprotected trench. Trench Boxes are often used in open areas that are away from utilities, roadways, and foundations. Trench boxes can be used to protect workers in cases of cave-ins, but are not a substitute for shoring. If the trench or excavation walls are made of rock, rock bolts or wire mesh can be used to offer additional support.

Excavation Safety Tips:

• Know the location of any underground utility lines

• Wear proper PPE – including protective hardhat, eyewear and footwear

• Keep heavy equipment away from trench edges

• Test for low oxygen and toxic gases.

• Inspect trenches at the start of each shift or if there has been significant rainfall

• Place barriers along the outside perimeter and safety signs at key locations

• Consider consulting with a professional engineer regarding the design and installing of the shoring

• Establish a safe means of access and egress

• Know the location of water sources and what the drainage patterns will be

• Develop an emergency response plan and include provisions for extreme weather, evacuation routes, and communication plans

What NOT to do:

• Do not enter an unprotected trench deeper than 4 feet

• Do not start digging before locating and de-energizing the buried services

• Do not enter a trench before testing the air

• Do not place anything within 1 metre from the trench’s edge

• Do not rely on natural freezing to act as a method of soil stabilization

It’s important to remember that collapses can occur without warning, regardless of the depth. In fact, the vast majority of fatalities occurs at minimal depths when workers fail to appreciate the risks involved. All excavation projects present serious safety risks, but injuries and fatalities resulting from collapses are preventable with proper planning and safety precautions.