National Safety Month Brings Awareness to Hazard Recognition, Falls, Fatigue and Impairment
June is designated as National Safety Month by the National Safety Council. Each year, the organization aims to reduce leading causes of serious injuries and fatalities at work, on the road, at home and in U.S. communities. This year, the focus narrows to four key topics: Hazard Recognition Slips, Trips and Falls Fatigue Impairment Hazard Recognition Hazards are all around us. The most common way to classify hazards is by category; some examples include: Biological: Such as bacteria, viruses, animals, humans Chemical: Based on the physical or toxic properties of the chemical Ergonomic: Repetitive movements Physical: Radiation, temperature extremes, noise Psychosocial: Stress, violence Safety: Slipping/tripping hazards, equipment malfunctions Next time you are in your office or on a work site, ask yourself, “What could go wrong here?” During your risk assessment process, evaluate the level of harm and the potential impact of the hazard. You may be surprised at how many hazards you identify and how often you come across them. Where can I find more information about hazards?Depending on the hazard, your risk assessment might require additional research. Consider these sources of information: Safety Data Sheets (SDS) Equipment manuals Occupational hygiene test results (for hazards such as chemical or noise exposure) Information or publications from government or safety agencies (such as OSHA or CCOHS) Company health and safety programs Hazards in the WorkplaceHazards can be introduced over time as processes change, equipment or tools become worn, housekeeping practices decline, or equipment goes unmaintained. Employees should regularly inspect their workplace to prevent incidents. If it is determined that there are unsafe conditions or hazards in the work area, employees should report the condition to their supervisor immediately so the situation can be resolved. Slips, Trips and Falls Slips most commonly occur when your heel strikes the ground and the transfer of body weight causes your foot to slip out from under you. Although many people find they can recover from slips, you can easily strain muscles when trying to regain your balance. Trips are caused when your forward-moving leg suddenly and unexpectedly stops. You body continues its forward motion but lacks the forward foot to land on. Statistics show that 67% of falls happen on the same level resulting from slips and trips. The remaining 33% are falls from a height. What can you do to avoid falling at work? The National Safety Council has several tips to prevent slips, trips and falls. Always use handrails when walking up or down stairs Don’t walk while distracted. Put your phone away and watch where you are going. Keep the office tidy. Close desk drawers and keep the floor clear of clutter. Keep flooring in good condition. This includes ensuring mats and rugs are flat to the surface with no sections that could create tripping hazards. Always ensure you have enough light for your tasks. Take it One Step at a Time Most safety programs focus on the physical hazards of slips, trips and falls. Although this is the most obvious, you can’t eliminate slips, trips and falls by only dealing with physical factors. Another factor is person’s state of mind. When we’re rushing, tired or complacent, we tend to make errors and decisions that increase the possibility of injury. It is important for employers to educate their employees on human factors that increase the odds of hurting themselves from a slip, trip or fall incident. FatigueEffective sleep can have a dramatic effect on the way a person functions on a day-to-day basis. According to the American Sleep Association, about 40% of working-age adults report short sleep duration. The UK National Health Service (NHS) reported that 1 in 3 people suffer from poor sleep. Read our recent article Managing Fatigue in the Workplace for more information. We cover the effects of fatigue on your body, top causes of sleep deprivation and fatigue, ways to prevent it in the workplace, and resources to evaluate your fatigue levels and sleep patterns. Impairment We often think of impairment as a result of substance use or an addiction or dependence to alcohol or drugs. However, impairment can be a result of various situations. Examples of impairment include substance use, fatigue, stress and personal issues. How do you identify impairment?As impairment may be the result of many different circumstances, employers should develop a clear statement of what is impaired behavior in their workplace. The following characteristics may be related to impairment: Personality changes, poor coordination or erratic behavior Smell, glassy eyes and/or slurring Working in an unsafe or atypical manner Developing a substance abuse programEmployers should collaborate with employees, health and safety committee reps, and union members to establish a policy which outlines the expectations of workers. The policy should also address an acceptable level of safety performance for the company. Supervisors should be educated and trained on how to recognize impairment. Additional trained employees can help ensure an unbiased assessment and remove any stigma regarding substance abuse when talking to an employee about their behavior. Benefits and SupportIf it is suspected that an employee is showing signs of impairment, it is important to act. Follow the company’s substance abuse program by speaking to the individual in a private area to discuss concerns about safety and impairment. Employees may also have access to an Employee and Family Assistance Program (EAP). These programs are often included with benefits and are a great resource. If you are struggling with substance abuse or other challenges, check with your human resources department to see if an EAP is available through your employer. Safety is Your ResponsibilityIt is important to demonstrate your commitment to safety through leading by example and following company policies. Although safety programs and policies are vital in the office and the worksite, having knowledge and awareness may also help you recognize unsafe situations in your daily life. If you are a contractor, review your company’s safety policies and programs to help reduce incidents. If you are a Hiring Client, it’s a good time to evaluate your written programs and trainings. Ask your contact at ISN for information on how our team can help. Are you a Hiring Client and interested to learn how ISN could help you manage your contractors and validate written programs? Request a demo of our contractor management system, ISNetworld.