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Workplace Safety


By Workplace Safety

Musculoskeletal injuries and disorders are among the most common ailments in today’s workplace. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2002 they accounted for 487,900, or 34%, of the injuries and illnesses that resulted in days away from work. In addition to back injuries, musculosketal disorders like Repetitive Strain Injuries such as Carpel Tunnel Syndrome are now rampant in the computerized office.

The remarkable thing about these disorders is that we now know what causes many of them and how to prevent them. The risk factors for work-related musculoskeletal disorders are work postures and movements, repetitiveness and pace of work, force of movements, vibration, and cold temperatures.

Work postures and movements can cause discomfort and fatigue if maintained for long periods of time. Activities like standing for long periods of time can cause sore feet, general muscular fatigue, and low back pain. If you have to stand or sit for extended periods at your job, make sure that you do some warm up exercises before you begin, and actively change positions throughout the day.

Repetitive movements are hazardous because we use the same joints and muscle groups over a long period of time. Using computer keyboards for long periods of time can cause serious damage to arm and finger muscles and tendons. If you perform repetitive tasks in your job, try finding ways to vary the routine. Take short breaks or timeouts. Make sure you have the proper equipment and ergonomically correct furniture.

Force of movements refers to the amount of effort our bodies must use to lift objects. The weight of objects and manner in which we lift things can cause low back strain, even ruptured discs and hernias. If you lift heavy objects, learn how to bend, stoop and lift correctly. Even if you only lift one heavy box a year, learn how to do it safely.

Vibration might encourage musculoskeletal disorders because they affect muscles, tendons, joints and nerves. Think of the ultimate vibrating job, a jackhammer operator, and you get the picture of what damage vibrations may cause. If your job entails operating vibrating equipment, you should wear a set of insulated headphones. Make sure that you have the right gloves and shoes, as well. Also, make sure you know the acceptable operating time for your equipment, and never exceed that limit.

Cold temperatures or handling cold objects can cause numbing which may make us misjudge the amount of force we need to apply, and may cause our bodies to become less flexible. When that happens our positions and movements become awkward and stiff which can lead to more problems. If you work in a cold place, make sure that you dress appropriately and warmly. Wear proper gloves and clothing that allows for flexibility.

You can avoid the pain and crippling effects of musculoskeletal injuries and disorders in the workplace. Be informed. Be prepared. Be safe.


By Workplace Safety

Long before there is an accident involving exposure to harmful chemicals there should be a plan to deal with them. First, create a list of all chemicals in use in the workplace, their properties, and what to do in the case of an accident or exposure. Then make sure to have the necessary equipment and trained personnel to provide first aid treatment.

Accidents involving exposure to chemicals in the workplace are most likely to involve burns or eye injuries, although there have also been incidents where chemicals have been inhaled or ingested. If chemicals are inhaled and the person is unconscious, he should be resuscitated and immediately transported to a hospital.

In a case of chemical ingestion, it is a common misconception that antidotes of water, milk, charcoal, and other combinations can neutralize the ingested chemical. The correct procedure to dilute most chemical ingestions is to provide a small amount of water – about 8-10 oz. Any other procedure including inducing vomiting may cause more harm than good.

Being burned with chemicals is probably the most common accident involving chemicals in the workplace. It usually occurs when proper handling procedures are not followed, or when someone cuts corners. In some cases, even “empty” containers can cause problems and sometimes the person is not even aware that they have been burned until much later.

Normal first aid treatment for chemical burns is to flush the affected body part immediately and thoroughly using a large supply of clean fluid under low pressure for at least 15 minutes. However, this can be reduced or expanded depending on the severity and strength of the chemical. If irritation persists, repeat the flushing procedure. Follow- up medical analysis and treatment is always recommended.

In a case of eye contact with chemicals, the cause is usually improper handling of materials or not wearing protective eye gear like masks, goggles, or glasses. More often than not the contact is a splash or spill that makes contact with the eye.

The appropriate first aid response is to immediately rinse the eye with water at an eyewash station. Eyewash stations are required under health and safety legislation wherever chemicals are used. Rinse the eye(s) for at least a minute, and if still irritated rinse again. If problems persist, report the accident and proceed to the nurse’s station or the emergency room at the nearest hospital.

Caution is crucial when dealing with chemicals in the workplace. So is information. Know what you’re dealing with and how to treat accidents immediately. Your sight or your life just might depend on it.


By Workplace Safety

Part of an effective health and safety plan should be a well-defined plan to deal with major emergencies. Would people know what to do in the case of an explosion at your workplace? Who would be in charge? Who would phone the fire department, the police, and the hospital? Is there an evacuation plan? What happens if the power goes out?

An emergency plan would answer all of those questions, hopefully long before the real emergency. It is much better to be prepared than to be surprised. For employees, it is better to know in advance what your responsibilities are in an emergency situation than to find out when disaster strikes.

A good emergency plan begins with a vulnerability assessment. This assessment shows the organization where potential risks are, helps identify what can be done to prevent such a situation, and outlines the immediate steps to be taken if the risk becomes a reality.

If an emergency does occur, then a set of procedures must be followed that will protect individuals and property. In the case of a fire the procedures might include:

  1. Declare that there is an emergency
  2. Sound the alarm
  3. Evacuate the danger zone
  4. Call for help
  5. Initiate rescue operations
  6. Attend to casualties
  7. Fight the fire, if absolutely necessary

To accomplish all of these steps there must be an emergency plan outlining individual authority and responsibility, all needed supplies and equipment, and a storage map that shows where they are located. Needed supplies might include everything from flashlights to back up generators, bandages to respirators. But most importantly, each employee must be trained and well informed of the emergency plan, as well as any role they are expected to play. However an emergency plan is designed, it must contain the following elements:

  • An evacuation plan that all staff is familiar with and an easy to follow route that must always be clear of obstacles.
  • Safe locations for employees to gather outside the emergency zone so that everyone can be accounted for.
  • An ability to treat any injuries, search for the missing, and simultaneously contain the emergency.
  • An alternate source of medical assistance when the normal facilities may be affected by the emergency.

If you don’t have an emergency plan at your workplace, it’s wise to devise one. If you do have a plan, find out what your role might be in the case of an emergency. At a minimum, know the plan and route so that you can evacuate, help others to do so, and prevent confusion at the last minute.


By Workplace Safety

The American Academy of Ophthalmology states that approximately 2,000 employees incur work-related eye injuries every day. Up to 20% of those injured will become permanently or temporarily disabled due to vision loss. The good news is that up to 90% of all work-related eye injuries can be prevented. Learning how to prevent injury is the key to avoiding what could be a lifelong disability.

Eye injuries can happen in almost any work environment. Grinding, hammering, painting, spraying, sanding, welding, and the handling of acids and caustics can lead to serious eye hazards. Particles of any size can become projectiles. Dust, fumes, intense heat, gases, vapors, and splashing liquids can be generated from your work and can get into your eye, causing serious injury.

Three out of five eye injuries happen because the employee is not wearing any eye protection. The most obvious suggestion for improving your safety is to make sure you wear safety goggles or other facial protection. It is important to realize, however, that these might not protect you adequately.

Almost 20% of eye injuries occur to employees wearing face shields or welding helmets while grinding. Lack of side shields on eye protection is a common cause for injury among those that do wear eye protection. The eye protection you select must fit properly and you must keep it clean. Most employees remove ill-fitting or dirty eye protection, defeating its purpose!

Choose the right eye protection for the job. Options include non-prescription and prescription safety glasses, goggles, face shields, welding helmets, and full-face respirators. The higher quality the eye protection and the better its design, the longer and better it will protect you. As mentioned earlier, make sure the size is correct and the fit is tight. If it doesn’t fit you right, it will not protect you properly. Pick a comfortable goggle or face mask. Fidgeting and adjusting it constantly will only inhibit your ability to perform your job safely.

If you doubt the importance of following eye safety procedures, just consider the value of what you would lose. Close your eyes for just a minute, and imagine the world around you. Don’t take your sight for granted. Protect your sight and ensure your co-workers are doing the same. It could make all the difference.


By Workplace Safety

The science of ergonomics focuses on the interactions between work demands and worker capabilities. The goal is to achieve those interactions between the work and the worker that will not only preserve the safety and health of the workforce but also optimize productivity. Applying the science of ergonomics to pushing and pulling tasks produces a number of guidelines for the design of work involving those tasks.

In the first place, it helps to design work to control the amount of pushing or pulling an employee is expected to do. A good example is to set a limit on the number of shopping carts an employee is expected to collect from the parking lot in one trip. When possible, you can limit the need for pushing or pulling by using applicable mechanical aids. Depending on the environment these might include:

  • Conveyer belts
  • Powered trucks
  • Lift tables
  • Slides or chutes

The force required to push or pull can be lowered by reducing the size and/or weight of a load or using four-wheel trucks or dollies. Proper selection and maintenance of hand-trucks and dollies is very important. Wheels or casters should be adequately maintained and bearings should be periodically lubricated. Be sure that the equipment is sized to the task properly, such as with larger diameter wheels and casters for heavier loads.

Floors also affect the ergonomics of pushing and pulling. Floors that are not level increase the difficulty of pushing or pulling, as do floors that are rough. Maintaining floors and applying a surface treatment that reduces friction might be advisable.

Reducing the distance of the push or pull is an easy way to improve the ergonomics. Two examples would be moving receiving, storage, production, or shipping areas closer to work production areas and changing the production process to eliminate unnecessary materials handling steps.

Finally, the actions of pushing and pulling can be optimized by:

  • Providing variable-height handles so that both short and tall employees can maintain an elbow bend of 80 to 100 degrees.
  • Replacing a pull with a push whenever possible. Using ramps with a slope of less than 10%.

Keep in mind that a number of factors influence the ergonomics of horizontal pushing and pulling. These include body weight, height of force application, distance of force application from body (amount of trunk flexion/extension), duration of force applied or distance moved, and the availability of a structure against which the feet or back can push to prevent slippage. For vertical pushing and pulling, the influential factors include grip strength and height of force application. The height determines which muscles will be used. Pulls from above head level allow for the greatest force because body weight can be used. Pulls from more than 10 inches above the floor also allow the greatest force because strong leg and trunk muscles can be used. Pushing across the front of the body involves weaker shoulder muscles so full arm extension leads to a marked decrease in maximum force.


By Workplace Safety

More than one million workers suffer back injuries every year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In many cases, the cause of these injuries can be traced to the improper lifting of heavy objects.

Learning proper methods of lifting and handling heavy objects can protect against injury and make your work easier. Although these methods might take some time to get used to, over time, safe lifting techniques will become second nature.

Safe Lifting Guidelines

Before you lift an object ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can I safely lift this object alone?
  • Is the load too big or too awkward?
  • Does the load have good handles or grips?
  • Is there anything to obstruct proper lifting?
  • Could the contents of the load shift while being lifted?
  • Is there enough space for easy movement?

When lifting, use the following techniques to protect yourself from injury:

  1. Maintain good balance. Spread your feet at least shoulder width apart. Distribute weight evenly throughout the soles of both feet and keep your feet firmly planted.
  2. Use your abdominal muscles. Tightening these muscles before starting the lift reduces stress on the back.
  3. Bend from your knees. Bending from the knees ensures that weight comes first into the thighs and hips rather than the spine. Don’t lift with your knees locked because the hamstrings will tighten and lock the pelvis into an unbalanced position. Don’t bend from the waist as this places tremendous pressure on the back. Keep the back straight, but not vertical.
  4. Tuck in your chin. Tucking your chin will help keep your back straight.
  5. Grip with your palms, not your fingers. This grip is much more secure than using just your fingers.
  6. Use your body weight to start the load moving, then lift by pushing up with the legs. Using your legs makes full use of the strongest muscles in your body.
  7. Keep the arms and elbows close to the body while lifting to avoid strain on your upper back.
  8. Carry the load close to your body. Use your feet to change direction.
  9. Watch where you are going!
  10. To lower the object, bend the knees. Don’t stoop. Place the load on a bench or shelf and push into position. Make sure your hands and feet are clear when placing the load.

Practice the above steps when lifting anything — even a relatively light object.

If the weight, size, or shape of an object is too much for one person to lift, ask for help. Ideally, workers should be approximately the same size for team lifting. Only one lifter needs to be responsible for control of the action to ensure proper coordination. If one worker lifts too soon, shifts the load, or lowers it improperly, the risk of injury increases.