National Safety Month- Week 3 Safety Awareness of your surroundings

June 2014 National Safety Month Tips Week 3


Where did that come from? I didn’t expect that! Didn’t see that coming! How did that happen? Sound familiar? After an injury caused by an incident, these are the types of comments often expressed by the victim — sometimes the witnesses. Witnesses as well as those involved often exclaim that they had no idea what happened. This is an expression of frustration. They thought they were working safely and had probably performed the job hundreds of times. The worker could probably do the task blindfolded. Perhaps they did?


A common factor in injury incidents is a lack of awareness.

A thorough pre-operational inspection of workplaces and equipment is one of the most important acts that anyone can do to ensure his or her own safety each day. But a pre-operational inspection is only a start. Each worker must constantly be aware of changes in his or her environment throughout the shift and be prepared to react appropriately to changes that occur. These differences may occur because of a change in location, or a natural change in the immediate environment. They may be changes that are forced from outside sources, or they may be changes that we create by the work we perform.

An air hose is normally a safe tool. One could consider it a tripping hazard if it crosses a walkway, or it could represent a strain hazard when lifting or pulling. But normally, if in good condition, an air hose is rather innocuous. But, suppose someone begins to disconnect the hose. Fittings may be difficult to break. Pinch points may be encountered using tools to break the connection. But what if the hose is pressurized? The valve was shut off and the pressure was bled off. But what if the valve leaks and pressure is re-built? What if the wrong hose was bled off? Each of these hazards is easily controlled if the worker is alert.


A worker is preparing to splice a section of conveyor belt. It must be cut square. There are machines to help do this, but we don’t make that many splices and the razor knife does a good job. The belt material is designed to resist cutting and abrasion, so the cable resists the action of cutting and requires effort, even with the sharpest knife. The worker may be cutting away from his body, but his leg is under the edge of the belt. The line-of-fire hazard is easily controlled.

Debris takes on many forms, but normally has one common characteristic. It’s disorderly. This fact raises a number of new potential hazards — pointed objects, sharp edges, unbalanced pieces, heavy loads, slippery surfaces, tangles, tension, awkward shapes and sizes, and others. It may be necessary to move smaller quantities (more trips) and/or it may require cutting pieces into manageable sections. These types of hazards are easily controlled if the worker is alert.

You are in the break room and have just finished eating. Time to clean up and go back to work. You go to the sink to wash your containers and silverware. While washing some of the water splashes on the floor. Not too much, it will be fine. Someone else will clean it up and you leave. A couple of minutes later someone, comes to the sink to wash their lunch containers, but they don’t recognize the hazard. They slip on the wet water on sprain their wrist as they fall down. If the previous person had just wiped up the floor this could have been prevented. Now the injured employee will miss a few days of work, have to get medical treatment and physical therapy for a few weeks. Be restricted in their work responsibilities, so other people in the department have to do more work, they might have to get a temp employee or pay overtime. Additional expenses from the profits earned, because someone did not take the time to remove the hazard.


Your safety and the safety of your coworkers are dependent on your awareness of potentially hazardous conditions in the workplace. Take off the blindfold. There are a thousand things to see, hear, feel and smell in the workplace. Learn to observe and notice changes. If you do not recognize the hazard, you cannot control the hazard. If you cannot control the hazard, you cannot prevent the injury.

It all starts with awareness.

Accidents can occur when working in unfamiliar surroundings or areas because employees unfamiliar of the hazards in the area:

Survey your work area before you do anything

 Ensure that you have enough space to do your work.

 Meet with the building engineer to discuss your work.

 Identify if lockout/tag out needs to be performed energy sources.

 Check the condition of the flooring and lighting.

 In mechanical spaces and tunnels, look for: low overhead hazards, sharp edges or surfaces, standing water, non-insulated pipes, exposed wiring, and unguarded equipment.

Walk to the route you will be following when transporting materials

 Look for uneven surfaces, trip hazards, objects you need to maneuver around, foot traffic, or any other obstacle.

 Pay attention before entering elevators: the floor of the elevator may not be even with the floor of the corridor.

 Check the stairways: condition of the steps and landings, uneven stair heights, and obstacles an uneven surfaces around both sides of the door to stairway.

Do not create new hazards

 Avoid running extension cords through high foot traffic areas.

 Do not block emergency exits or routes of egress.

 Clean up when you are done: remove all of your tools, clean up debris, replace machine guards and electrical covers (junction boxes, outlets, switches), etc.

 Consider the building occupants when scheduling your work: sometimes waiting until there are less people around is better.

 Put up barriers and signage to warn building occupants to avoid hazards and stay clear of your work area.

 Report hazards you observe to the Safety Committee or me – just because it’s not your building doesn’t mean you should ignore the hazard!

The vast majority of injuries are due to the unsafe actions of people.

Here are Safety 10 reminders for individuals to help prevent injuries:

1. Be aware. Being aware of your surroundings, potential hazards and your fellow colleagues is one of the best ways to prevent injuries. Distractions cause accidents. Anticipating versus reacting will help keep you safe and bring you home to your family.

2. Think it through. Before you start a task take a couple of minutes to think through what you’re about to do. Do you know the correct procedure, the protective equipment required, and the potential hazards to you and to others?

3. Address unsafe actions and conditions when you see them, for your safety and the safety of others. Don’t be afraid to speak up when you see something unsafe – you could be preventing an injury.

4. Use personal protective equipment as prescribed. The proper gloves, glasses, clothing, shoes and respirators are an important part of keeping you safe, but only if they are used and worn as intended. And they are your last line of defense, not a substitute for removing a hazard.

5. Be aware of your body position. Move your body in the right way. Keep out of the way of hazards, such as moving equipment and sharp objects. Using the right gloves is important, but gloves do not protect hands from being crushed or punctured. And don’t forget that repetitive motions can cause injuries.

6. Use the right tool for the right job. The proper tools and equipment help you avoid hazards and prevent risk. For example, when you’re using a ladder, make sure the ladder is set properly to prevent it from tipping. Be careful not to overreach. And have another person assist you when necessary.

7. Follow procedures for safe work. It may take a little extra time, but shortcuts put you at risk. Locking-out machinery and using guards helps keep you safe from moving parts. Don’t cut corners and by-pass these important safeguards.

8. Stay in shape. Keeping your core muscles in shape – whether you have a desk or physical job — is important to prevent injuries. Core muscle strength helps maintain balance, flexibility and strength. Take a few moments to stretch, make sure you know the limitations of your body and maintain good posture.

9. Watch your step. Ice, water, and spills are the most common causes of slips, trips and falls. And steps can be particularly dangerous, so make sure you always use a handrail.

10. Practice safe driving. Many people get hurt driving on the job by not obeying traffic laws. And distractions such as cell phones are responsible for the rising number of automobile accidents. Take a Defensive Driving Course. My next class is Jun 20, 2014.

Near Miss Reporting- ‘A near miss is an event or situation that could have resulted in injury, damage or loss but did not do so due to chance, corrective action and/or timely intervention’

Luckily nothing happened – this time

Some say that in a near miss nothing actually happened. They argue that a near miss provides a glimpse into the future – a suggestion of something more serious that might happen on another occasion. The message is that, correctly understood, a near miss is an opportunity to learn. Apply that knowledge to take action to prevent possibly more serious consequences another time. Using this argument, near misses are taken as leading indicators that can be used to help create safety.

But it was an incident

“Near misses describe incidents where no property was damaged and no personal injury sustained, but where, given a slight shift in time or position, damage and/or injury easily could have occurred” (OSHA definition). The clear message is that, despite no physical harm, something undesirable happened. On this basis a near miss is a lagging indicator.

Is a near miss an unsafe condition?

We can make a distinction between “near miss” and “unsafe condition”. An unsafe condition can exist even when there is no incident – making it a leading indicator. Examples could be corrosion of worn/defective walkways, defective brakes, PPE not worn, poor electrical grounding.

Too late?

Classing near misses as a lagging indicator does not necessarily mean too late. True you cannot go back and prevent that particular incident. But as with all incidents up to and including fatalities, it is still possible, if not an obligation, to investigate to learn from the experience and take remedial action to prevent a recurrence. In a sense the lagging indicator generated by incidents becomes a leading indicator for prevention.

The pyramid below, demonstrates the number of ‘hidden’ incidents for each serious injury including Near misses. Tackling the base of the pyramid means injuries and property damage become less likely. Near Miss reporting is required by OSHA and can be a great tool prevent future safety injuries, damage or fatalities.

Keep in mind it’s everybody’s job to keep the work place accident free, employers and employees alike. If you see an unsafe condition, get it fixed! Do not leave an unsafe condition uncorrected because it may be the next person who suffers a serious injury. Safety First, Safety Always!

Information from National Safety Council, CDC, National Floor Safety Institute, NIOSH, OSHA and ASSE and

Safety and health in the use of chemicals at work

From the International Labour Organization Website:


Safety and health in the use of chemicals at work

This report for the 2014 celebration of the World Day for Safety and Health at Work reviews the current situation regarding the use of chemicals and their impact in workplaces and the environment, including various national, regional, and international efforts to address them. The report also presents the elements for establishing national and enterprise level programmes that contribute to ensure the sound management of chemicals at work.

Type: Report
Date issued: 05 February 2014
Reference: 978-92-2-128315-7(print)[ISBN]
Chemicals are essential to modern life, and will continue to be produced and used in workplaces. The ILO acknowledges that for an appropriate balance between the benefits of chemical use, and the preventive and control measures of potential adverse impacts on workers, workplaces, communities and the environment the sound management of chemicals is necessary and can be achieved with concerted efforts by governments, employers, and workers and their organizations.

Eleven Tips on Getting More Efficiency Out of Women Employees

If you think the title of today’s post isn’t very pc you’re right but then again PC wasn’t even an expression anyone understood back in 1943 when the article was written. It is purported to have been written in a newsletter for a major transportation company of the day and I came across it on the Snopes website where rumors and such are debunked or validated. In this case it was validated (Check it out for yourself at Here are the 11 tips:

Eleven Tips on Getting More Efficiency Out of Women Employees

There’s no longer any question whether transit companies should hire women for jobs formerly held by men. The draft and manpower shortage has settled that point. The important things now are to select the most efficient women available and how to use them to the best advantage. Here are eleven helpful tips on the subject from western properties:

1. If you can get them, pick young married women. They have these advantages, according to the reports of western companies: they usually have more of a sense of responsibility than do their unmarried sisters; they’re less likely to be flirtatious; as a rule, they need the work or they wouldn’t be doing it — maybe a sick husband or one who’s in the army; they still have the pep and interest to work hard and to deal with the public efficiently.

2. When you have to use older women, try to get ones who have worked outside the home at some time in their lives. Most transportation companies have found that older women who have never contacted the public, have a hard time adapting themselves, are inclined to be cantankerous and fussy. It’s always well to impress upon older women the importance of friendliness and courtesy.

3. While there are exceptions, of course, to this rule, general experience indicates that “husky” girls — those who are just a little on the heavy side — are likely to be more even-tempered and efficient than their underweight sisters.

4. Retain a physician to give each woman you hire a special physical examination — one covering female conditions. This step not only protects the property against the possibilities of lawsuit but also reveals whether the employee-to-be has any female weaknesses which would make her mentally or physically unfit for the job. Transit companies that follow this practice report a surprising number of women turned down for nervous disorders.

5. In breaking in women who haven’t previously done outside work, stress at the outset the importance of time — the fact that a minute or two lost here and there makes serious inroads on schedules. Until this point is gotten across, service is likely to be slowed up.

6. Give the female employe in garage or office a definite day-long schedule of duties so that she’ll keep busy without bothering the management for instructions every few minutes. Numerous properties say that women make excellent workers when they have their jobs cut out for them but that they lack initiative in finding work themselves.

7. Whenever possible, let the inside employe change from one job to another at some time during the day. Women are inclined to be nervous and they’re happier with change.

8. Give every girl an adequate number of rest periods during the day. Companies that are already using large numbers of women stress the fact that you have to make some allowances for feminine psychology. A girl has more confidence and consequently is more efficient if she can keep her hair tidied, apply fresh lipstick and wash her hands several times a day.

9. Be tactful in issuing instructions or in making criticisms. Women are often sensitive; they can’t shrug off harsh words the way that men do. Never ridicule a woman — it breaks her spirit and cuts her efficiency.

10. Be reasonably considerate about using strong language around women. Even though a girl’s husband or father may swear vociferously, she’ll grow to dislike a place of business where she hears too much of this.

11. Get enough size variety in operator uniforms that each girl can have a proper fit. This point can’t be stressed too strongly as a means of keeping women happy, according to western properties.

How is legalized marijuana going to affect workplace drug policies?

I live in Washington state, one of two states that has legalized marijuana for recreational use. By the middle of this summer anyone over 21 years of age should be able to go into one of several stores and purchase marijuana for personal use. There’s a problem though and it relates to drug-free workplace policies.

If your company has a drug-free policy (government and state contract job are all required to be drug-free) then even if you are no longer under the influence, you’re going to test positive up to a week later and get fired. Most other drugs, like cocaine or pain killers dissolve in your system in a relatively short period of time whereas marijuana stays in your system. You can go home on Friday night and snort a large amount of cocaine, show up at work on Monday morning, get drug tested and pass. If you smoke a joint, however, you’ll test positive even though the effects of the drug will have long worn off and that joint you smoke is in no way impairing your ability to do your job safely.

Even medical marijuana will get you fired. A medical marijuana case in Colorado (the only other state where marijuana is legal) got a worker fired even though he had a prescription. He took it to court and lost. He’s presently appealing the sentence but it’s doubtful whether he’ll win.

So, the question is, if it’s legal to take marijuana in WA and CO, who exactly is going to be able to take it? Apparently only the unemployed and even they would get in trouble if drug tested because I’m guessing that the state doesn’t want to pay unemployment to people who take drugs.

What needs to happen is that a new system for drug testing needs to be put in place. If it’s legal to take marijuana, like it’s legal to have a few drinks after work, then the issue should be “Is your use of marijuana interfering with your ability to do your job safely and effectively?” not whether or not, four days later we can still find traces of it in your system.

What are your thoughts on this topic?


What Causes Workplace Accidents?

That might, at first glance, sound like a silly or self-evident question… Accidents are caused by not doing something safely, right? But the issue is that in most cases, the people who have or cause accidents do, in fact, know better. They know that it isn’t safe to use a table saw without putting on safety glasses. They understand that they shouldn’t back up without looking, but somehow they do it anyway and that’s the question. Why?

There are several attitudes that contribute to accidents in the workplace (or elsewhere for that matter). They are:

  1. Fear – That might sound strange because we tend to think that fear would keep us from doing something dangerous. There are many forms of fear and the fear of looking like a wimp (most men have accidents because they don’t want to look “unmacho” or “unmanly”) keeps people from pointing out unsafe behavior or actions. Fear of looking stupid keeps us from asking questions and challenging procedures. Fear of reprisal keeps us from refusing to do jobs that might put our health at risk.
  2. Anger and irritation – Road rage is probably the best example of this attitude that puts us at risk. In the workplace, conflicts can cause employees to take unsafe actions as well. A man who has lost his temper is rarely one who stops to consider the safety of his actions.
  3. Fatigue and tiredness – Safe actions require us to stop and think before we act. When we are tired we simply don’t tend to do this as often if at all.
  4. Complacency and overconfidence – “We’ve never had a problem before!” is probably the statement that those of us who deal in safety hear most often when we challenge and point out an unsafe behavior. You might have done it unsafely 1,000 times and gotten away with it but that doesn’t mean that the odds won’t eventually catch up with you. If it isn’t safe, it isn’t safe, not matter how often you’ve done it.

Changes in behavior take place when the motivation for the behavior changes. Simply telling someone to wear safety glasses isn’t enough. Change the motivation and the behavior changes, it’s as easy as that.

Mental Health and the Workplace

Stressed Over Money

Did you know that depression is a “top driver of health care costs to employers”? Or that 1 in 5 employees suffers from some sort of mental health condition?

No? I didn’t either.

Every now and then I find a great article that I have to pass along. “Five Things Employers Need to Know About Mental Health” is such an article. Published online at, it outlines what every employer needs to know about mental health (hence the title 🙂 and goes on to give 6 steps in helping to provide a solution in the workplace.

It also provides a link to, a website whose goal suicide prevention in the workplace.

Check out both sites and start thinking about the problem before it becomes a crisis in your workplace.

June 2013 National Safety Month Tips – Week 1 Slips, Trips and Falls

June 2013 National Safety Month Tips

Week 1: June 3-8

Preventing Slips, Trips and Falls

“Safety starts with me” is this year’s theme for National Safety Month. It is important that we all realize safety does start with each and every one of us not matter if it is at home, work or play. This week’s topic is Slips, trips and falls. Most slips, trips and falls are preventable. Many people attribute falls to not having good situational awareness of their surroundings or being clumsy or not paying attention, but many other risk factors do exist. Risk factors include physical hazards in the environment, age-related issues, pets and health conditions. Reduce your risk and find fall hazards in your workplace and home to prevent injuries and keep others safe round the clock.

Remove common fall hazards:

• Keep floors and stairs clean and clear of clutter; also beware of pets running under your feet.

• Maintain good lighting both indoors and on outdoor walkways

• Secure electrical, computer cables and phone cords out of traffic areas or add cord cover to existing cords.

• Use non-skid throw rugs in potentially slippery places, like bathrooms

• Install handrails on stairways or patio rails, including porches

• Use a sturdy step stool or ladder when climbing or reaching for high places

• Clean up all spills immediately

• Wear sensible footwear or footwear with a tread for traction grip features.

Never stand on a the top of a ladder, chair, table or surface on wheels

• Arrange furniture to provide open pathways to walk through

• Periodically, check the condition of outdoor walkways and steps and repair as necessary

• Remove fallen leaves or snow from outdoor walkways to see possible trip hazards

• Be aware that alcohol or other drugs, including prescription and over-the-counter medicine, can affect your balance and increase risk of falling

Older adult falls

Older adults are more prone to become the victim of falls and the resulting injuries can diminish the ability to lead active, independent lives. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the following tips can greatly help older adults prevent falls, but are beneficial to those of all ages.

• Stay active: Chances of falling can be reduced by improving strength and balance. Examples of activities include brisk walking, tai chi and yoga.

• Fall-proof your home: This includes taking advantage of the tips above and removing all tripping hazards.

• Review your medications: Have your doctor or pharmacist review all the medications you take both prescription and over-the-counter. Some medications or combination of medicines can make you drowsy or light-headed, which can potentially lead to a fall.

• Check your vision: It’s best to have your vision checked at least once a year to make sure you have the best prescription for your glasses. Poor vision greatly increases your risk of falling.

Ladder safety tips:

  • Choose the right ladder for the job and make sure you have received training on how to use it properly
  • Check the area you will be working in for hazards, such as cords or objects in the walkway
  • Don’t stand any higher than the third rung from the top of a ladder
  • Do not use ladders outdoors in windy or inclement weather, and if the weather turns while you are on it, descend immediately
  • Always keep at least three points of contact with the ladder (i.e., two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand

June 2013 Daily Tips

June 3: Avoid falls by keeping all walkways clean and clear of clutter and maintaining good lighting.

June 4: Help avoid falls by staying active to improve your strength and balance, especially for older adults.

June 5: To avoid slips, trips and falls, check the area you will be working in for hazards, such as cords or liquids on the floor.

June 6: Properly arranging your furniture at work and home can help prevent falls.
June 7: In the event of a power outage, have an emergency kit prepared containing multiple flashlights and batteries to avoid tripping over objects in the dark.

If you want more safety tips please contact me.

Preventing Slips, Trips and Falls Quiz

1. Falls account for ________ emergency room visits each year.

A. 8.7 million

B. 30,000

C. 1 billion

D. 650,000

2. Which of the following risk factors contribute to falls?

A. Age-related issues

B. Physical hazards in the environment

C. Health conditions

D. All of the above

3. Staying active is only beneficial to older adults in preventing falls.

True False

4. What are some common fall hazards?

A. Clutter on the stairs

B. Phone and electrical cords

C. Both A and B

D. None of the above

5. Which of the following tips can help prevent a fall?

A. Leaving water on the floor

B. Having snow on the walkway

C. Having cords out where you can see them

D. Maintaining good lighting both indoors and outdoors

Answers are

1. A,

2. D

3. False

4. C

5. D

Slips, trips, and falls cause numerous injuries every day. But they are among the easiest hazards to correct. Take the time to look around your worksite, office or homes for these hazards and work to prevent them. Take care not to cause any slip, trip, or fall hazards as you go about your daily activities. Don’t let a slip, trip, or fall keep you from enjoying all that life has to offer.

Please raise our Slip, Trip and Fall Awareness and remember Safety First, Safety Always!

Information from National Safety Council, CDC, National Floor Safety Institute and ASSE

Today’s post comes to us courtesy of Ken Oswald, Safety and Security Manager for Plateau