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Celebrate National Safety Month

Posted on by Dawn Castillo, MPH and Kim Shambrook

We all face risks throughout our lives. The fact is, unintentional injuries have been increasing for decades and are now the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S. To reverse this trend, we all need to take simple steps to help keep each other safe. Safety should be practiced all year round, but June is a special time when we come together annually to spread the word about preventing injury and death at work, on the road, and in our homes and communities.  The focus areas for this year’s National Safety Month are hazard recognition; slips, trips, and falls; fatigue; and impairment.  In this blog, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the National Safety Council (NSC) highlight research and prevention activities in the four topic areas.  Be creative and engage your co-workers, family members, and communities in safety this June. Use the information below; download and share four weeks of free safety materials from NSC including a poster, tip sheets, articles and more; and visit the NIOSH website to stay safe this month and all year long.

 

Week 1: Hazard Recognition

NIOSH: Identifying hazards is a key component in preventing workplace injury and death. NIOSH offers a variety of tools to help workers and employers identify hazards in their workplace. How loud is too loud? Find out with the free NIOSH Sound Level Meter app. How heavy is too heavy? Consult the NIOSH Lifting Equation Calculator app.

Between 2011-2014, 1,380 workers were injured as a result of operating an aerial lift or scissor lift. To address this issue, NIOSH developed educational tools and products to create awareness about common workplace hazards when using aerial lifts including the NIOSH Aerial Lift Hazard Recognition Simulator.

Mining remains one of the more hazardous industries, though operators and mine workers continue to make great strides in the areas of health and safety. To address the many hazards, NIOSH offers several hazard identification tools. One such tool is EXAMiner, which is a new PC-based software application that allows miners to test their examination skills in a simulated, interactive environment with photos from a real surface limestone mine, or with uploaded images from their own mine.

If you think there is a hazard in your workplace you can request a free NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE). The HHE program helps employees, union officials, and employers learn whether health hazards are present at their workplace and recommends ways to reduce hazards and prevent work-related illness.

NSC: Hazards are everywhere. Depending on your job, you may not think your workplace is particularly ‘hazardous’, but dangers are often there if we know where to look. Our world is becoming increasingly visual, but when we look at something, how much are we really seeing? Just like learning to read, it is beneficial to train our minds to better ‘see’ the world so we are able to overcome our visual biases. The more hazards we can proactively identify, the safer we’ll be. Check out this research from the Campbell Institute at the National Safety Council: Visual Literacy: How “Learning to See” Benefits Occupational Safety and A Second Look: Update on Visual Literacy.

Encourage all of your workers to take the SafeAtWork pledge to showcase their commitment to keeping each other safe at work, including identifying hazards early. To better understand the numbers behind the most common risks to our safety, NSC is also hosting a free webinar, “Injury Facts: Data You Can Count On” on June 26 @ 1:00 PM CT.

 

Week 2: Falls

NIOSH: Fatal falls across all industries are at their highest levels in the 26 years since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking workplace fatalities. Falls are the leading cause of construction-worker fatalities, accounting for one-third of on-the-job deaths in the industry. NIOSH provides several resources to help construction employers and workers prevent fall-related injuries and deaths. This includes NIOSH’s award winning Ladder Safety App. Additionally, NIOSH, together with OSHA and CPWR, initiated the National Campaign to Prevent Falls in Construction to address the toll of construction falls.

Not all falls are fatal. The highest numbers of nonfatal fall injuries occur in the health services and the wholesale and retail industries. Slips and trips in the workplace can also cause falls. Research shows that providing free, highly slip-resistant shoes to food service workers significantly reduces slip injuries. In mining, steps to help prevent slips are illustrated in this infographic.

NSC: Following overexertion injuries, falls on the same level is the second leading preventable workplace injury event resulting in cases with days away from work, according to injuryfacts.nsc.org. Falls from heights often cause more serious injuries and deaths. The Council’s Safety from Heights resources offer best practices, planning tools, and more to keep workers safe. Also, check out the Harness Hero game that engages players in the key decisions of using a fall arrest system.

While overall, workplace injuries have seen a downward trend over the past two decades, NSC is not seeing a similar reduction in life-altering injuries and fatal incidents like those from falls. However, the Campbell Institute at NSC, which constantly seeks to improve the environment, health, and safety, published the paper: Serious Injury and Fatality Prevention: Perspectives and Practices. This report showcases a fresh perspective on Heinrich’s Safety Triangle that isolates the parts with the most potential for serious injury and death.

 

Week 3: Fatigue

NIOSH: To meet the demands of a 24/7 competitive global economy, work is often no longer confined to a 9 to 5 schedule. Both shift work and long work hours have been associated with health and safety risks. The NIOSH Shift Work and Long Hours page highlights NIOSH publications and other resources that address the risks of demanding work schedules. This NIOSH website also lists training to reduce risks from fatigue for nurses, truck drivers, commercial pilots in Alaska, and emergency responders.

In addition to these trainings, NIOSH published a fact sheet with recommended strategies for oil and gas employers to manage fatigued driving among their workers. Motor vehicle crashes cause over 40% of work-related deaths in the oil and gas extraction industry. Driver fatigue, which may be a result of insufficient sleep, long distances traveled to well sites, and long work shifts, is a factor in some of these crashes.

Join the discussion forum, “Working Hours, Sleep & Fatigue: Meeting the Needs of American Workers & Employers”, on September 13-14, 2019 in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. This forum, which is hosted by NIOSH and will take place after the 24th International Shift Work and Working Time Symposium, includes presentations and discussion on research gaps, needs, and effective countermeasures related to working hours, sleep, and fatigue among U.S. workers and employers. For those unable to attend, the link above provides information on submitting input.

NSC: In a “do more with less” world, fatigue is a growing concern to workplace safety. Getting 7-9 hours of sleep every day is key, but employer practices and policies can make a big difference. The Council has many resources on fatigue including infographics, videos, research, and reports. Fatigue also has many economic costs for organizations. Check out the NSC Fatigue Cost Calculator to assess how fatigue financially impacts your workplace.

Do you know the major causes of fatigue in your organization? The Campbell Institute has piloted two tools among Institute members to help companies understand fatigue risks in both its operations and workforce. This includes an operational needs assessment to investigate workplace sources of fatigue and an employee survey to identify employee habits that may introduce fatigue. Make sure to read the white paper: Understanding Fatigue Risk: Assessment and Countermeasures.

 

Week 4: Impairment

NIOSH: The opioid overdose epidemic continues to claim lives across the country with a record 47,600 overdose deaths in 2017. The crisis is taking an especially devastating toll on certain parts of the U.S. workforce. High rates of opioid overdose deaths have occurred in industries with high injury rates and physically demanding working conditions such as construction, mining, and fishing. Other job factors such as high job demands, job insecurity, and lack of control over tasks have also been linked to opioid use. The NIOSH Opioids in the Workplace page contains tools for the workplace, research, and general resources.

A recently released Workplace Solutions Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder provides information for employers wishing to assist or support workers with opioid use disorder, in addition to providing general information about medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Another blog post details how workers who use either medically-prescribed opioids or benzodiazepines or a combination of both of these drugs can face safety and health risks in the workplace.

NSC: Impairment can take many forms in the workplace. Whether it is being drunk, drugged, drowsy or distracted, if you feel different you are likely impaired – which can lead to injury or worse. Impairment begins with the first drink. Even legal prescriptions can impair you, so it is important to know the side effects of your medication and any interactions they might have with other drugs.

Every day, more than 100 people die from opioid drugs. Many of these are working-age adults. Many people aren’t aware they are taking an opioid, which include commonly prescribed drugs such as Vicodin and Percocet. It is important for doctors and patients to have a conversation about the medications being prescribed, the potential risks and whether an alternative non-opioid treatment may be more appropriate. Be proactive and order free Warn Me labels for insurance and prescription cards to help prompt that critical discussion. Order labels for yourself or sheets of labels for your workplace. NSC also offers a Prescription Drug Employer Toolkit as well as a Substance Use Employer Calculator to better understand the costs to your organization.

Beyond alcohol and drugs, missing a few hours of sleep can impair your driving abilities, even if you are just going to and from work. Multitasking is a myth, there is no way to use a cell phone and perform safety sensitive tasks at the same time. NSC offers a free Safe Driving Kit to help employers address all of these issues. The Council believes we can eliminate preventable deaths on our roadways. If you do too, consider joining the Road to Zero Coalition, comprised of more than 900 organizations committed to ending all roadway fatalities by 2050.

Please share with us how you plan to celebrate National Safety Month. Green is the universal color of safety. Show your support for National Safety Month by taking photos wearing green with your coworkers and posting them to social media on June 27 using hashtags #GoGreenforSafety and #NSM.

 

Dawn Castillo, MPH, is the Director of the NIOSH Division of Safety Research.

Kim Shambrook is Vice President Safety Education, Training & Services at the National Safety Council.

Posted on by Dawn Castillo, MPH and Kim Shambrook

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