People are so busy these days that a lunch “break” frequently comes down to gobbling a quick sandwich with one hand while continuing to work with the other hand.
Aside from the stress associated with not taking a proper lunch break away from your workstation, dropping a wrench or taking off your work gloves and then tucking into a sandwich can be hazardous to your health, for these reasons:
Not only is it potentially hazardous to your health to eat anything without first washing your hands with hot soap and water, you also need to consider that chewing gum, drinking coffee or other beverages, smoking, touching your mouth, nose or eyes, handling contact lenses or applying make-up or lipstick in a chemically contaminated area can also harm you.
Few people would find it safe to place a hand in a chemical solution and touch it to their lips, but touching food after you’ve been handling chemicals isn’t any different.
If you have been handling chemicals while wearing gloves and you believe it’s fine to remove those gloves and eat, drink or smoke without first washing your hands, think again. Contamination on those gloves, whether from handling chemicals, laboratory agents or bloodborne pathogens in a medical setting, can easily be transferred to your hands while removing gloves.
No one needs to be told about the importance of washing their hands with soap and water after using a toilet, but if chemicals or biological agents have touched your hands, you also need to wash your hands before answering nature’s call.
Watch Where You Store Your Lunch
Another mistake workers often make is to store food or drink in refrigerators in which chemicals, drugs or biological agents are also stored. Doing so can easily contaminate food or beverage items. Food should only be kept cool in your lunchroom’s fridge.
Keep these additional chemical handling tips in mind:
Taking a minute to thoroughly wash your hands with warm, soapy water before eating isn’t just practicing good hygiene. It can prevent serious illness from chemical exposures.Read More
Bed bugs, those small, brownish insects that like to set up home in people’s beds and suck on their blood, are becoming a problem in the workplace, according to University of Kentucky extension entomologist Michael Potter.
He says bed bugs, which are about 3/16ths of an inch long, are showing up in increasing numbers in homes, apartments, healthcare facilities, hotels/motels, office buildings, dormitories, schools, movie theaters and other places where people live, work, play and study.
A recent National Pest Management Association survey found that nearly 20 percent of pest exterminators reported finding bed bugs in US office buildings, as compared to just one percent in 2007.
Potter says the prevalence of bed bugs is probably due to increased immigration and world travel and less effective modern bed bug pesticides.
Someone who has been bitten, most often while asleep, is usually left with itchy, red welts or localized swelling. Bed bug bites are often mistaken for mosquito bites.
“It often seems that bed bugs arise from nowhere. The bugs are efficient hitch-hikers and are usually transported in on luggage, clothing, beds, furniture and other items,” says Potter. “This is a particular problem for hotels, motels and apartments, where turnover of occupants is constant.”
Acquiring used furniture such as couches, chairs or beds is another route for an unintended bed bug infestation at home or work. And workers can and do unknowingly take them to work on their clothing and shoes.
“Once bed bugs are introduced, they often spread throughout a building,” he says. “The bugs can travel from room to room or floor to floor by crawling or via a person.”
A building’s level of cleanliness has little to do with the likelihood of an infestation.
Bed bugs, as their name suggests, are most commonly found in beds. A thorough inspection requires dismantling the bed and standing the pieces on edge. Look for the bugs themselves or dark spots of dried bed bug excrement, especially along mattress seams or along the undersides of box springs.
Furniture such as couches or chairs should also be examined for evidence of bed bugs, including seams, tufts, skirts and crevices. Potter says treating bed bug-contaminated surfaces is difficult and beds or furniture may need to be thrown out. He suggests contacting a reputable exterminator to decide what items are treatable and which require disposal.
“In extreme cases, entire buildings have been fumigated for bed bugs,” says Potter.
Following are some tips for avoiding bed bug infestations:
Female workers are more than twice as likely as their male counterparts to suffer ergonomics-related injuries on the job, particularly when not enough attention has been paid to the design of work, equipment, workstations and environment.
Ronald Porter, a physical therapist and ergonomics expert and director of the Back School of Atlanta, says some female-dominated professions, such as healthcare, require moving heavy loads and adopting awkward working positions.
Women are also more likely than men to be performing work that involves repetitive tasks, working at workstations and using tools that were designed for men.
Porter, who addressed the recent American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) Professional Development Conference in Baltimore, noted that women represent 46 percent of the US workforce, but report 63 percent of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) that result in lost work time.
Factors that put women at greater risk for MSDs include:
“Being overweight can contribute to back pain by increasing the wear and damage to joints, causing irritation, pain and reduced activity,” says Porter. “This lack of activity can cause further weight gain.”
Porter noted that other factors that put women at higher risk for MSDS include:
He says avoiding or limiting strenuous work, work requiring balance, lifting of more than 50 pounds, prolonged sitting or standing, temperature extremes and providing adjustable workstations can help women avoid work-related MSDs.
“Many work areas were designed by men for men. Forty-six percent of our workforce is female. The best place to apply ergonomics principles is during design, not after the issue becomes a problem,” says Porter. “It is must cheaper to build it correctly in the first place than to retrofit.”
PPE for women that will protect them from contract stress can also greatly reduce the chances of an ergonomic-related injury. Such PPE includes floor mats for workers who must stand a lot, shoe inserts and anti-vibration gloves.
Education in neutral postures, correct body mechanics and provision of “ergo breaks” can significantly reduce MSD risk factors for women.
“Instructing supervisors and perhaps even employees to recognize early warning signs of MSDs and how to apply correct first aid can be invaluable in the management process,” says Porter. “Developing appropriately modified or restricted duty jobs or tasks can speed recovery and decrease the likelihood of re-injury upon return to work.”Read More
An international study says that mining for gold, diamonds and precious minerals in sub-Saharan Africa could be driving a tuberculosis epidemic on that continent.
Researchers at Oxford and Brown universities, the University of California and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine estimate that the mining industry may be implicated in 760,000 annual new cases of tuberculosis—a contagious and potentially fatal disease that affects the lungs and other parts of the human body.
The researchers say that silica dust in mines, coupled with crowded working and living conditions and the spread of HIV/AIDS is driving the epidemic.
“Men traveling from afar to work in mines, such as from Botswana to South Africa, are at the greatest risk of getting tuberculosis,” states a news release from the University of Oxford in England. “But their wives, children and friends are also at high risk when miners travel back and forth to work, often many times a year.”
Even if TB is diagnosed in miners and treatment begins, the information frequently does not get back to doctors in the miners’ hometowns. This disruption of treatment poses a major threat of people developing a drug-resistant form of the disease, according to the study’s authors.
“Healthcare programs should emphasize continuity of care as miners travel across borders and miners should undergo routine screening in order to detect TB at an early stage,” states the news release. There’s also a need “to improve poor working conditions and reduce the miners’ exposure to silica dust.”
TB has been on the rise in sub-Saharan Africa during the past two decades, with a doubling of the year incidence from 173 per 100,000 people in 1990 to 351 per 100,000 people in 2007.
Info to go: Read more about tuberculosis by clicking on the Info to Go safety links at www.SafeSupervisor.comRead More
Odds of winning the lottery 1 in 135,145,920 (multi-state, mega-millions jackpot)
One-year odds of a person committing suicide: 1 in 9,249 (BookofOdds.com)
4: On average across the US and Canada, 4 times as many men as women commit suicide. (Suicide Information and Education Collection)
11: The US Suicide rate is 11.1 per 100,000 people. (World Health Organization)
13: The suicide rate among Canadians is 13 per 100,000 people. (Centre for Suicide Prevention)
28: Workplace suicides across the US jumped 28 percent in 2008, compared to 2007, with 251 cases reported. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
45: Suicide rates among 45 to 64-year-olds hit the highest level in a decade in 2007. (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
130: Among workplace suicides tracked by the US Department of Labor in 2008, there were 130 involving self-inflicted gunshot wounds.Read More
A back injury can be just the beginning of a lifetime of pain, inability to work or play, reduced income and unhappy dealings with medical agencies.
A serious back injury disrupts your life. Since our back is used in all tasks we perform – on and off-the job, the exact cause of the injury may be difficult to pinpoint, leading to discouraging disputes about compensation. Therapy may be ineffective and there may be differences of opinion about your ability to hold a job again.
There is an alternative to the back injury nightmare. You can follow safe work practices to prevent injuries, and you can practice back care at all times.
Back injuries fall into two general categories. The first is a traumatic injury caused by an isolated incident. A fall, a motor vehicle wreck or a misjudged dive into water are some common causes of back injuries. If the spinal cord is injured, the victim may lose the use of his legs or both arms and legs.
These are some practices to prevent traumatic back injuries:
The second category of back injury is cumulative. Years of back abuse and minor strains and sprains add up to a back injury which can be seriously disabling.
These are some ways to prevent cumulative back injuries:
Back care is a safety basic that must be part of every activity you do. Lift carefully, practice good posture and use caution at work and off the job to prevent back problems.Read More
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) plans to conduct a national survey of long-haul truck drivers.
“Truck drivers are at increased risk for numerous preventable diseases and health conditions. Previous research suggests that truck drivers are at increased risk for lower back pain, heart disease, hypertension, stomach ulcers and cancer of the bladder, lung, prostate and stomach,” says NIOSH. “Truck drivers also face extraordinary risk of on-the-job mortality.”
In 2007, the fatality rate for driver/sales workers and truck drivers was 28.2 per 100,000 workers, compared with a rate of 3.8 per 100,000 for all workers. Drivers of heavy and tractor-trailer trucks had more fatal work injuries than any other single occupation, with 822 deaths in 2007.
“Truck drivers experience high rates of occupational injury and illness, but little is known about the prevalence of factors suspected to place them at increased risk,” says NIOSH. “Information is needed on the role of occupation in driver health and on mechanisms of driver injuries.”
NIOSH will host a truckers’ focus group, conduct stakeholder meetings, survey nearly 2,500 truckers in the northeast, south, Great Lakes, central and western US, hold a webinar and use an internet blog to gather information.
NIOSH says it hopes to:
Info to go: Read more about long haul trucking hazards by clicking on the Info to Go safety links at www.SafeSupervisor.comRead More
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) says low back pain is the most common cause of job-related disability and a major contributor toward employees missing work.
Back pain, reported almost equally among men and women, is most common in the 30 to 50 age bracket, occurring partly as a result of the aging process and partly because of a lack of regular exercise.
Share these NINDS quick tips toward a healthier back with your workers:
If you smoke, quit. Smoking reduces blood flow to the lower spine and causes the spinal discs to degenerate.Read More
Editor’s note: Share this timely safety talk with your workers.
What’s At Stake
Working in excessively hot conditions can be difficult – and even fatal. Heat can create a number of safety problems and illnesses, including heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. These illnesses caused by too much heat are called hyperthermia.
Heat can also cause you to become inattentive, short-tempered, dizzy and slow. All of these conditions can cause you to work in an unsafe manner.
What’s The Danger
Heat cramps affect muscles such as those in the arms, legs and abdomen – the muscles which have been used while working. Heat cramps are a signal that the body has lost too much salt through sweating.
Heat exhaustion may have these symptoms: A feeling of exhaustion, nausea, dizziness, pale and clammy skin, quick pulse and low blood pressure. Heat exhaustion is also a warning that the mechanism which controls heat for the body has become seriously overtaxed. Heat stroke may follow if heat exhaustion is not treated.
Heat stroke is a serious matter and it can be fatal. It occurs when the body’s heat control mechanism simply shuts down. Perspiration stops and the body temperature rises. The heart pounds and the skin becomes flushed and hot. This condition is a medical emergency and must be treated immediately.
Hot conditions can be caused by the weather or by the work situation itself, such as a laundry room or a foundry. When the atmosphere is humid, the effects of the heat are compounded.
How To Protect Yourself
It is important that you remain alert to the signs of heat illness in yourself and in your co-workers. If signs of heat illness develop, move the victim to a cool place and cool him off by fanning or soaking him with cool water. If he is conscious, give him water to drink. If you have any reason to suspect that the person may be suffering from heat stroke, call for medical help immediately.
Firefighters in Alberta will now automatically be eligible for Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) coverage if they contract esophageal or testicular cancer. These two cancers are being added to the list of cancers with automatic WCB coverage for qualifying firefighters, bringing the list to ten.
“This is something we owe to the people who risk their lives to keep us safe,” said Thomas Lukaszuk, Minister of Employment and Immigration. “By adding these two cancers to the list, we can provide compensation to firefighters and their families immediately instead of waiting for the results of complex investigations.”
Firefighters are at greater risk than the general public of being exposed to a variety of toxic or cancer-causing agents when they approach burning buildings. Ten cancers are now considered to be “presumptive” or presumed to be work related without requiring proof.
The Alberta Fire Fighters Association (AFFA) supported the change, noting that cancer rates among firefighters are between three and five times the rates among the general population and they contract these diseases much earlier in life.
“This coverage gives firefighters peace of mind that their families will be looked after should they succumb to this occupational disease,” said AFFA Secretary Brad Hoekstra.Read More