800-841-4230

Blog

Risk Management in the Workplace

Risk management in the workplace is the process of identifying and minimizing risks in an occupational setting. This encompasses a large number of different practices including physical hazard assessment, ergonomics, and legal liability reduction. There are a number of different risk types that need to be evaluated in a work setting, and reevaluated on a regular basis to ensure an optimal level of production, safety, and health on the job.

Physical Hazards

Perhaps one of the most important risk assessments that needs to be made in the workplace is that of physical hazards. Physical hazards are anything in a work environment that have the potential to physically harm members of a staff. There are a number of different physical hazards that can be identified and addressed and may include (but are not limited to) any of the following:

  • Improper storage of products or supplies
  • Broken, malfunctioning, or poorly maintained equipment
  • Unkempt work spaces
  • Electrical hazards
  • Fire code violations
  • A lack of PPE
  • Air quality
  • Noise pollution

The good news about physical hazards is that they are often visible and can generally be addressed fairly quickly by fixing a single problem. Some physical hazards are not visible and require an inspection to uncover. That’s why it’s recommended that companies have safety inspections frequently. This is part of performing a comprehensive risk management assessment.

Ergonomics

Ergonomics is the study of people’s efficiency in their work environment. . The risk associated with poor ergonomics is that production may go down. Ergonomic risks are often more difficult to address because they may have to do with processes set in place which are harder to change than a broken piece of equipment or a wet floor. Fixing ergonomic risks often requires high-level thinking and company-wide change.

Legal Liabilities

Every company should take risks seriously—especially if those risks have the potential to turn into legal problems. Safety & health for all employees should be on the top of the priority list for managers, as failing to meet standards for safety and health can land a company in serious legal trouble. A company should also assess any HR risks that might be present in a work environment, including discrimination of any kind, harassment, or poor coworker dynamics. HR violations can turn into law suits just as quickly as a workplace injury!

Back Injuries in the Work Place

Back pain and injuries are one of the most common types of occupational injuries that occur. Additionally, recovery time from these injuries tends to be longer than others. Back injuries are a threat to productivity and more importantly, worker health and well-being. Occupational health and safety should be the number one priority at any company. Learn how to prevent back injuries in the workplace with our tips.

Educate Everyone

Education and proper training are the first and best defense against occupation health hazards. If employees are informed of the dangers of the workplace and guided on how to avoid them, they will be more likely to proactively prevent injury & illness. Have frequent training sessions that include occupational health and safety sections. Back injury prevention should be included.

Encourage Stretching

If there are physical aspects to a position at your company, make sure you encourage all employees to stretch before work. Many people can avoid injury simply by stretching before physical activity. Stretching helps increase blood flow to the muscles as well as the discs between vertebrae. This helps the muscles function better and decreases the likelihood of them tensing up.

Improve Posture & Lift With The Legs

Maintaining good posture is a good idea in general, but can help reduce back injuries as well. Make sure that employees also use the proper technique for lifting heavy objects. Lifting loads is one of the biggest reason for back injuries. The proper technique doesn’t only decrease the likelihood of injury, it will actually make lifting easier. Encourage employees to lift with their legs and hold loads as close to themselves as possible. Keep the back straight, and avoid twisting or jerking. Stretch after putting the load down as well.

Assess the Situation

Tell employees to play it safe! If a load looks too heavy for one person to carry—always ask for help. Moving too much weight is just asking for an injury. There’s no shame in asking for some help. If the load is too big for multiple people to lift or move, it’s time to employ some machinery. Some tasks are simply safer with mechanical equipment.

Evacuating Workers in Emergency Situations

Evacuation procedures are a crucial safety element to the operations of a company. Creating and implementing a proper emergency action plan, or EAP, involves many different factors, but should always include what to do in the case of a facility evacuation. If evacuations are not explicitly organized, they can result in mass confusion and even injury. Below are some of the topics that should be addressed in the evacuation procedure.

Conditions That Qualify For An Evacuation

Be sure to identify the types of situations that would result in an evacuation so that all members of your staff are able to recognize immediately whether an evacuation is necessary. This should include situations where it would be better to find shelter within the facility rather than evacuating as well.

Develop A Chain of Command

When it comes time to actually evacuate a facility, it is going to be critical that there are trained, responsible supervisors who can take the reins and effectively coordinate the evacuation. There needs to be a clear hierarchy so that everyone in the building knows who to listen to in the case of an emergency. Make sure all employees are educated on general evacuation procedures and are also aware of who they should look to for instruction.

Evacuation Routes

Maps of evacuation routes and exits should be posted frequently throughout every facility. The maps should be clearly marked with exits, assembly points, and where equipment such as fire extinguishers and other safety equipment is located. Exits should be well-lit and wide enough to accommodate several evacuators. Making things clear and easy to understand in all maps and routes will be crucial so that people can understand them quickly and easily, since they may be in a state of panic.

Make Everyone’s Responsibilities Clear

Make sure that all employees are well educated on what their own roles are in an evacuation scenario. There should be procedures for what employees should know before an emergency occurs, what should be done in an emergency, and what to do should an employee become trapped. There should also be designation of who evacuates first, who stays behind to make sure that critical operations are shut down, help check to make sure everyone is out of the facility, and perform other evacuation-related duties. There should also be a plan in place for accounting for all employees in an evacuation.

Frequent Training & Education

Like all safety procedures at a workplace, evacuation education and training should occur periodically for all employees. Obviously, new hires should be made aware of safety information, but it is important to refresh everyone’s memory frequently so that they all know what to do in the case of an emergency.

Prevent Injuries From Repetitive Tasks

Many labor-based jobs require repetitive tasks that can lead to repetitive strain/stress injuries. These are injuries that affect your muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and other soft tissues and happen because of consistent and repetitive motion. Doing the same job day in and day out puts strain on the muscles that you use to do that job. After a long time, this strain can cause some serious problems including chronic injuries.

The good news is that you can implement systems of prevention at your company to mitigate this risk. By making some changes at the top, you can help prevent repetitive strain injuries for your workers. Not only will making these changes improve the daily lives and health of your employees, it will in turn improve your operation’s productivity. Happier, healthier workers do better work, after all. Here are the changes you can make:

  1. Redesign the job.

    Make sure that a job doesn’t involve one repetitive task day in and day out. Keep the employee in mind when designing operations. Job stations should allow workers to sit as well as stand. They should switch up the movement or task that the worker is doing whenever possible, and they should match the specific worker’s capabilities.

  2. Provide the proper PPE.

    The proper gear is essential not only for safety, but for long-term health. Making sure that employees have access to proper footwear, for example, for those workers who spend long hours of their workday standing or walking will not only help them be more comfortable during their shift, but it will provide long-term results such as helping prevent knee and leg injuries.

  3. Provide Training & Education.

    Let employees know that repetitive strain injuries exist, and tell them what they can do about it. Include in your safety training how to recognize early symptoms of these injuries and allot time for breaks in the workday—and encourage workers to take them. Teach them how to avoid these injuries in the first place. The longer a worker performs a repetitive task, the higher risk they are at to develop an injury, so make sure that each employee knows the importance of things like PPE and proper rest.

For other tips, contact your local OSHA office.

Reporting Workplace Injuries

Immediate documentation of workplace injuries is a keystone of a safe work environment. By reporting a workplace injury immediately, the details of the event are fresh in the memories of those involved and the most accurate description of what actually happened will be recorded. Making immediate documentation habit will also minimize the risk of anyone forgetting to report the incident. Not only is proper recordkeeping helpful, it is also the law. OSHA has recordkeeping requirements that must be met by all companies for all major work-related injuries.

OSHA Requirements

Serious work-related injuries and illnesses are both required by law to be recorded by employers. Minor injuries and incidents that only require first aid may not necessarily have to be reported. Records of injury need to be kept at the worksite for at least 5 years. Copies of these records need to be produced for current or former employees or those who represent them when requested. Records can be submitted to OSHA electronically—which in the near future will actually be a requirement.

Severe Injuries

Fatalities on the job must be reported within 8 hours of their occurrence and any hospitalization of a worker must be reported within 24 hours. Similarly, any amputation or loss of an eye must be reported within 24 hours of the incident.

How To Report An Injury

There are a few ways to report an injury to OSHA. You can report an injury online by clicking here or you can call your nearest OSHA Office. OSHA also has a 24-hour hotline at 1-800-321-6742 that you can call. In your report, you will need the following information:

  • Business name
  • Name(s) of employee(s) affected by the incident
  • Time, Date, & Location of incident
  • Description of the incident
  • Main contact person
  • Contact information including phone number

Preventing Workplace Injuries

In order to avoid workplace injuries altogether, make sure that your company has a proper safety program in place. Have clear policies which outline proper practices and make sure that all employees are properly trained. Also make sure that all employees have the proper personal protective equipment they need for their job. To shop for PPE for all industries, visit our disposable garments shop!

Developing & Implementing A Safety Program at Your Company

Safety in the workplace is not inherent. Safety needs to be a culture that is cultivated by management and practiced by everyone in a company. Management needs to commit to safety and make sure that safety awareness is something that is present in all aspects of daily life at their workplace. To help accomplish this, management can set up a safety program. Below is a general overview of how to set up & and implement a safety program at your company.

Create A Written Policy

The first step in creating a safety program is writing down the goals you want to accomplish and the policies that will get you there. Policies should be specific to each department and be comprehensive. There should be no question after reading a policy as to what practices are correct or incorrect in the workplace. Policies should address all problems and safety risks—even those that may seem obvious or common sense.

Involve OSHA

One of the best resources for occupational health and safety is OSHA. On their website, there are plenty of guidelines for workplace safety that can be used as reference. They also have posters and educational materials that you can use in your safety program. Display safety posters and educational content frequently throughout your workplace to promote awareness and involvement in the safety culture you’d like to create.

Do An Analysis

Go through your operations and look for hazards. Document them and design your policies around them. You may want to hire a safety consultant to do an audit of your operations to make sure you identify every possible risk.

Training

Make sure that you are educating your staff on the health and safety policies you’ve created. Involve EVERYONE in the company no matter what their role is. Everyone that works for you needs to be made aware of your policies so that you optimize the likelihood of their safety. Training should cover everything from top to bottom and be interactive when possible. Make sure that by the end of training there is no doubt in your mind that everyone understands the health and safety policies you’ve written.

Document EVERYTHING

Keep record of absolutely everything that happens in your company. Document trainings, document accidents immediately after they happen, and document how often safety inspections take place. Having this data will be paramount in improving your system later on.

Review

Take a look at the records you’ve kept and review them periodically. Annual revisions of safety programs are generally a good idea. Look at the numbers and see how well your policies are working. Are there areas where you need to make improvements? Are there new additions or changes to operations that need policies made about them? Have all of your employees been thoroughly trained on the safety and health policies you’ve created? If there is anything that needs to be addressed, now is the time.

For more tips and guidelines for developing and implementing safety programs at your workplace, visit OSHA’s website. https://www.osha.gov/

All About Asbestos

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a mineral that is used in many functions in a home and commercial facility. Asbestos is a mineral that was discovered to have many beneficial qualities for construction such as its resistance to heat and insulating properties. It is most commonly found in buildings that were constructed between 1930 and 1950. It can be found in insulation, textured paint, and patching compounds found in the joints of walls and ceilings. The problem with asbestos is that it is highly toxic to humans. Asbestos fibers are inhaled by people and then settle at the lower part of the lungs.

What are the health effects of asbestos?

Asbestos has a myriad of harmful effects on humans—not the least of which include a higher risk of lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma. These conditions affect respiratory function negatively and can even be fatal. Below is a small explanation of each of the major diseases that asbestos exposure can cause.

Lung Cancer

Asbestos exposure increases the risk of lung cancer. Of course this depends on several factors including the duration of exposure, how much asbestos is present, the age at which exposure occurs, and the nature of the asbestos. Symptoms of lung cancer do not usually appear until later stages of the cancer. Symptoms may include cough, shortness of breath, and chest pain in addition to weight loss.

Asbestosis

Asbestosis is the chronic lung disease specifically formed by many years of asbestos exposure. When asbestos enters the lungs, it harms them, creating scar-like tissue. This tissue reduces elasticity and makes breathing more difficult. The most common symptom of asbestosis is shortness of breath.

Mesothelioma

Workers who are exposed to asbestos over time may develop mesothelioma, which is the cancer associated with mesothelial cells. These cells form in the lining of the lungs, abdominal area, and heart cavities. They are directly tied to asbestos exposure. Much like lung cancer, the nature of the exposure to asbestos including its amount, duration, and latency, all determine the level of risk a person has of developing the disease.

Risks that Firefighters Take

Firefighting is among the most dangerous jobs a person can have. As first responders firefighters run into danger to save others. They are critical to public safety, putting themselves in harm’s way for the benefit of others. The dangers a firefighter faces are unlike those of almost any other career. Below are some of the most common risks that a fireman encounters on the job.

Flames & Burns

Perhaps the most obvious danger to a firefighter is the fire itself. Firefighters run into burning buildings and are greeted with intense heat and roaring flames. Burns can range from small and mild to life-threatening. A firefighter’s greatest defense against burns is the fire-resistant clothing they wear. The proper pants, jacket, boots, gloves, and headgear are all essential in protecting men and women coming into contact with flames.

Smoke Inhalation

Perhaps the deadliest of the risks associated with firefighting is not the fire itself, but the smoke that firefighters are exposed to. Smoke inhalation is the number one reason for fire-related deaths. This is why firefighters wear masks and often have oxygen tanks. If a firefighter’s equipment fails, smoke can quickly infiltrate the fire suit and harm the firefighter.

Falling, Tripping, & Slipping

Slips, trips, and falls are another hazard for firefighters. The crumbling wreckage of burning buildings lends itself to plenty of obstacles and debris. The environment inside a burning building is cloudy with smoke, hot, and chaotic. Firefighters often can’t see well where they’re going or what is even in front of them. It is all-too-easy to slip or trip on some of the collapsed rubble.

Strains, Pulls, & Tears

Firefighters have to carry a lot of weight on their person. Not only is a fire suit heavy due to the nature of the fire-resistant fabric, the equipment they carry weighs down on them as well. Air tanks, ladders, hoses, axes, and other equipment are not light—not to mention pulling or carrying a person out of a burning building! A firefighter can easily overexert him or herself in the act of fighting the fire.

Epidemics, Pandemics, and Outbreaks 101

It seems as though nowadays the news is filled with talk of potential disease outbreaks. But understanding those stories and the risk they pose to our daily lives means understanding the terms those newscasters are using. What is an epidemic? What is the difference between an epidemic, a pandemic, and an outbreak? How do each spread, and what can be done to stop them? We’ll cover each of these questions in detail below.

Outbreaks

First of all, what exactly is an outbreak? Well, an outbreak is the occurrence of a contagious disease in a certain area and/or at a certain time. In certain cases, even a single incidence of a disease may be considered an outbreak if it is a rare disease or if it is a disease that has resurfaced after a long period of time.

Epidemics

An epidemic is classified as an outbreak which spreads rapidly to a large number of people. Epidemics may occur when the disease is introduced in an environment where it has not been before, has been transmitted in a way that more people have become exposed to it, when factors cause people to be exposed at a higher rate.

Pandemics

A pandemic is an epidemic of global proportions. Pandemics spread rapidly across the planet and pose a risk to the well-being of entire societies. Influenza pandemics such as Spanish influenza and Honk Kong influenza have killed millions of people across the planet.

How Contagions Spread

Outbreaks like these occur when a disease is contagious. Different diseases can be transmitted different ways. Airborne contagions, as the name suggests, travel through the air when someone coughs or sneezes. Contagions can also be transmitted through water, skin-to-skin contact, and sexual activity, depending on the disease in question.

Handling Outbreaks

Stopping outbreaks from spreading further is an incredibly difficult and incredibly important job done by dedicated public health professionals. Although there is no absolute way of stopping the spread of a disease, there are methods of slowing the spread. Vaccinations are one of the best ways to control the disease, however these often take time to develop, so they are not necessarily the first line of defense. When there is a known outbreak where you live, be sure to wash your hands frequently using soap and water, avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes as much as possible, and cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing (and follow that up by washing your hands). Avoid crowded places, and if things are bad enough, consider wearing a face mask.

Everyday Biohazards

Believe it or not, biohazards aren’t just found in laboratories. The reality is that biohazards lurk all around us in everyday life. First, let’s be clear on what it is that we’re talking about. Biohazards are biological matter that pose risk to the health of other organisms. Generally, when we are talking about biohazards, we are talking about them in relation to the threat they pose to human health. Think of substances like medical waste, substances from animals, or any other sources of microorganisms, viruses, and biological toxins. Biohazards can range from those that cause mild illness to those that are fatal. Below are some of the most common places you may encounter the biohazards that surround us and what you can do to protect yourself against them.

Shower Germs

Your shower is home to more germs than many other places. Germs thrive in warm wet environments, making your shower one of the most ideal places for them to live and grow. Places like shower curtains especially can often harbor large numbers of bacteria because they stay moist for so long. So how do you combat these tiny dangers from making you sick? Consider a cloth shower curtain to avoid bacteria building up on plastic (which they tend to do quite often) & frequently washing your shower curtain in hot water.

Mile-High Fevers

Airplanes host a variety of contagions that can be found anywhere on board from the sneezes of your fellow passengers to the lavatory door handle. One of the biggest threats posed to airplanes is the presence of Norovirus—an extremely contagious biohazard which has the ability to spread across an airplane quickly. So next time you’re planning on taking a ride in the sky, pack a (TSA-approved portion size) bottle of hand sanitizer and don’t be afraid to use it!

Bugs from Bugs

One major biohazard flying around is the disease that insects spread. Mosquitos in particular have the ability to spread blood borne pathogens. Most notably in recent news, mosquitos have been known to transmit diseases like the Zika Virus as well as the West Nile Virus—but they are known to carry and spread more. Protect yourself against bugs from these bugs by investing in some insect repellant and applying it when spending time outdoors—especially in the summertime.