Sleep--or lack of it-- is an important safety topic that is easy to overlook. We've all heard people talking about how tired they are as if it were something to be proud of--we're working hard, so naturally, we're tired! But fatigue can be a killer on a jobsite. If we are truly committed to safety, we must guard against fatigue in ourselves and our teams. While we cannot regulate how much sleep our employees get, we must consider fatigue and sleep deprivation in our training topics, fit-for-duty screening, and as a priority in our safety culture.
According to a recent study published by the National Sleep Foundation, 56% of Americans report that they do not get as much sleep as they need on work days. A sleep deficit can impair performance by affecting judgment, concentration, motor skills, response times and more. In fact, a significant lack of sleep can affect mental and physical performance the same way alcohol will, and to the same degree.
Spread the word about fatigue and the importance of adequate sleep. Here are some pointers for improving the quality and quantity of sleep:
Remember that caffeine is not a substitute for sleep. If you are too tired to do your job effectively, coffee will not fix it. The only cure for sleep deprivation is sleep.
For more on fatigue and sleep deprivation on the job, check out this article from Industrial Safety and Hygiene News.
Pressure washers speed up cleaning projects on work sites and at home. But with water delivered at pressures up to 4,000 pounds per square inch, pressure washers can also be dangerous. Understanding the hazards associated with high-pressure washing is the first step to preventing them. Be mindful of the following whenever you operate a pressure washer:
For more information on safely operating a pressure washer, check out these recommendations from the CDC and this safety alert from Consumer Reports.
Heat Illness Hazards
Operations involving high air temperatures, radiant heat sources, high humidity, direct physical contact with hot objects, or strenuous physical activities have a high potential to induce heat stress. When the body is unable to cool itself by sweating, heat-induced illnesses including heat exhaustion and heat stroke can occur.
Prevent Heat Stress
Heat Cramps are painful muscle spasms caused when workers drink large quantities of water but fail to replace their bodies' salt loss. Tired muscles are most susceptible to cramps. Cramps may occur during or after working hours and may be relieved by taking liquids by mouth or IV saline solutions for quicker relief, if medically required.
Heat Rash (Prickly Heat) may occur in hot and humid environments where sweat is not easily removed from the surface of the skin by evaporation. When extensive or complicated by infection, heat rash can be so uncomfortable that it inhibits sleep and impedes performance. It can be prevented by resting i a cool place and allowing the skin to dry.
Fainting (heat syncope) may be a problem for the worker who is not acclimatized to heat and who simply stands still in the heat. Victims usually recover quickly after a brief period of lying down. Moving aroundm, rather than standing still, will usually reduce the likelihood of fainting.
Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion
You've probably got first aid kits at home, in your office, on your job site, even in your vehicle. When was the last time you inspected yours?
First aid equipment and supplies should be stored where they can be reached quickly and easily in case of an accident. Like any piece of equipment, first aid kits need maintenance from time to time. They should be inspected frequently to ensure that they are fully stocked and in sanitary, usable condition.
Use this checklist to make sure your first aid kits will be ready when you need them.
Backing up and reverse motion are a leading cause of vehicle-related injuries. Planning, preventive measures and training can greatly reduce the chance of a backover incident. Below are some best practices to ensure safe backing at your job sites.
1. Avoid the problem: don't back up if you have an alternative. Plan your job site to allow pull-through parking, or park vehicles off site if appropriate. Always avoid backing up whenever an alternative exists.
2. Use backup alarms. Whether or not OSHA requires a backup alarm on your particular vehicle or equipment, backup alarms save lives and should be installed and used as much as possible. Backup alarms must be louder than surrounding noise.
3. Designate a spotter. Be sure the spotter is qualified and trained to use the proper hand signals to guide the driver. If the driver loses visual contact with the spotter, he must immediately stop the vehicle.
4. Place a safety cone behind the vehicle. This requires the driver to remove the cone before backing up, thus ensuring a visual inspection of the area behind the vehicle. It also serves as a reminder to others to leave space behind your vehicle. AIS drivers place a cone in front of their vehicles as well.
5. Plan your job site and communicate your plan. Designate traffic flow, including areas in which vehicles may have to reverse. Review the plan at your daily tailgate meeting. Make sure all crew members wear high-visibility clothing.
6. Consider rear-mounted cameras. While not a substitute for complete visibility or spotters, cameras greatly increase visibility.
When it comes to compliance, we can learn a lot by reviewing the most commonly violated regulations. This enables us to review our own operations for similar compliance issues and make corrections before OSHA comes calling. Below are the OSHA regulations that most often trigger citations, along with some practices to avoid a citation.
1. Fall protection in construction work (29 CFR 1926.501)
Consider your work area. Are there locations from which someone could fall? What sort of protection is in place to prevent a fall? Are you using appropriate equipment to stop a fall?
2. Hazard Communication (29 CFR 1910.1200)
We must ensure that hazardous chemicals are properly labeled, consistent with the provisions of the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).
3. Scaffolding in Construction Work (29 CFR 1926.451)
Inspect and check daily. Take no chances. Scaffolding must be inspected by the scaffolding contractor after erection and before use. Only the scaffolding contractor may remove or allow removal of any parts.
4. Respiratory Protection (29 CFR 1910.134)
When you use a respirator, you must be clean-shaven. Facial hair limits the effectiveness of the face-to-face piece seal. Fit testing is also required prior to respirator use.
5. Lockout/Tagout (29 CFR 1910-147)
Lockout/Tagout is more than just putting a lock on the main electrical disconnect to a machine or part of a machine. You should always follow the lockout/tagout plan and verify that each potential hazard has been "de-energized" before starting a job.
6. Powered Industrial Trucks (29 CFR 1910.178)
Ensure that a daily lift truck inspection is completed for each lift truck prior to use. Do not use a lift truck if the checklist shows that maintenance is required.
7. Electrical Wiring, Components, Equipment (29 CFR 1910-305)
Is there any exposed wiring in your work area? Are there any open receptacles? Is all equipment properly grounded?
8. Ladders in Construction Work (29 CFR 1926-1053)
All ladders shall be inspected regularly and maintained in safe condition. Those which have developed defects must be withdrawn from service for repair or destruction and tagged as "Dangerous- Do Not Use".
9. General Machine Guarding
It is important that everyone working with or around machinery understands that no guard may be adjusted or removed. No machine should be started without guards in place. If you see that guards are missing or defective, report it to your supervisor immediately.
10. Electrical General Requirements (29 CFR 1910.303)
It is a violation to use equipment in the workplace that has been labeled or listed for home use. Never use an extension cord as a permanent connection. An extension cord must be put away at the end of each task.
ANSI-approved hard hats are designed to protect you from the impact of falling objects and, in some cases, from accidental contact with electrical current. However, the way we care for our hard hats can have a big impact on how well they do their job.
Your protective hard hat has two basic parts: the shell and the suspension system. Both parts need to be cared for so that they can take care of you. The life of your headgear can be lengthened by cleaning both suspension and shell with a sponge or soft brush dipped in mild detergent and water.
Look for signs of wear such as scratches or gouges. Shells may not last as long if you work in extreme heat or cold, or if they are exposed to chemicals. Under these conditions, they become stiff and brittle and should also be replaced. And if your hat has been hit by an object, saving your head from the blow, retire that protector with honor, too. It has done its job and may not be able to rise to another such occasion.
Each day when you put on your hard hat, pay attention to the fit. This check is especially important if your hair is longer or shorter than usual. If the hat is too loose, your head may be too close to the shell. If the webs are too tight, your hat won't absorb the shock properly, and your head and neck will take the damage. For the same reason, do not carry personal items in your hard hat, which may interfere with the fit.
DOs & DON'Ts for Hard Hat Use and Care:
Each year, fire departments respond to an average of 210 structure fires caused by Christmas trees.
48% of home Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems.
27% of home Christmas tree fires are caused by a heat source too close to the tree.
By selecting, placing and lighting your tree with safety in mind, you can reduce your risk of fire at the holidays.
SELECTING A TREE
Discard your tree when it begins dropping needles. Dried-out trees are a fire hazard and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside against the home. Check with your city for proper disposal and recycling programs.
Falls from ladders can be as painful as a fall from a roof. About a third of all reported falls are falls from ladders. Many fall-related injuries result from improper use or the use of a defective ladder.
Step/extension ladders are made to access/egress upper levels, not to be used as work platforms. There are ladders, such as order pickers, that are specially designed for use as work platforms. These ladders are constructed with a small platform and guardrail.
Safe Work Rules for Ladder Use: