Encouraging Safe Behavior (Part I)

This month, I will be focusing on encouraging safe behavior both in the home and at work. Safety begins at home, but it spills over to all aspects of our lives. When you are safe at home, you are safe at work. Today’s posting will be the first in a several part series to encourage safer behavior and what we can do, either as employers OR employees to maintain a safe environment.

In order to make a plan to fix any unsafe behavior, you need to figure out what needs to change. For example, if your worker’s compensation claims are through the roof, what is the cause of most of the claims? Make a list of all the issues that you have found from claims or incidents.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. It can be easy to become overwhelmed with all the information that you have collected. Do not allow yourself to become overloaded. Once you figure out what your most pressing issues are from your list of unsafe behavior, choose the worst offender to fix first. Only choose one issue to fix at a time, especially if you are new at creating a safety plan. If you choose more than one, it can be difficult for employees to keep up with all the new goals set forth. Choosing one issue to fix and one goal to spotlight keeps employees focused on that one goal. It also keeps the one goal at the forefront of everyone’s mind, thus making it more realistic that it will be achieved.

Set SMART goals to bring the number of claims or incidents relating to your reason for the highest number of claims down to zero. Remember, SMART stands for:

Specific: Statements such as “lower claims for ankle injuries” only give a broad, generic goal. In order to really accomplish lowering claims for ankle injuries, the goal needs to be more specific. A better goal would be: “Lower ankle injuries by 40% in the next six months.” The goal states exactly what needs to happen – lower ankle injuries by 40%.

Measurable: The goal above, “Lower ankle injures by 40% in the next six months,” provides an amount that the goal setter can really analyze at the end of the time period. In this case, the goal setter has a measurable number that needs to be met during a certain time period. This goal is measurable. The setter can review the goal at the end of the six months, and determine if it was successful by asking “Did we lower ankle injuries by 40% in the last six months?”

Attainable: Make sure that your goals are not over the top. Nothing kills morale faster than unrealistic expectations. If you have had an enormous amount of accidents and injuries this year, a goal like “No accidents for the rest of the year” is not realistic or attainable. However, if you were to make a goal that says, “Decrease accidents and injuries by 50% by the end of the year,” the goal is more attainable. It gives employees a goal and time frame in which to meet said goal. Ultimately, a goal like this one is more apt to be successful because employees will believe that it is realistic and achievable.

Realistic: Again, I’m going to use the same example in the above section (Attainable) because they go hand in hand. If your goals aren’t attainable or realistic, they aren’t going to happen. “Decrease accidents and injuries by 50% by the end of the year” gives employees a challenge, but not so much of a challenge that they are discouraged and morale is lowered.

Time Measurable: The surefire way to kill a goal is to keep it open ended. Goals cannot be met if there is no end in sight. Let’s take a look at our very first goal example: Lower claims for ankle injuries. This is an open ended goal. There isn’t a really good way to measure this goal. What if we lower ankle injuries one month, but increase ankle injuries the next? Has the goal been met or not? It’s a wishy-washy way to create a goal without much success attached to it. The second example, “Lower ankle injures by 40% in the next six months,” has a time frame attached to it. At the end of six months, the goal setter can review the goal and determine if it has been met or not. At the end of the six month period, the goal setter can ask, “Did we lower ankle injuries by 40% in the last six months?” This goal has a time frame attached to it, therefore, it can be measured, and deemed either successful or not.

Setting goals can be complicated. It can be hard to determine what is realistic and attainable without being too easy. Be sure to challenge your employees when making goals. Setting goals that are too easy is just as much of a morale killer as setting goals that are too difficult to reach. So to review today’s post, figure out what needs to change in your environment. Then, make SMART goals to see small changes. Remember, a more specific small goal (Lower ankle injuries by 40% in six months) is better than a broad goal for large change (No more ankle injuries).

Be safe out there!

Fireworks

This photograph shows several people moving sp...

This photograph shows several people moving sparklers around in patterns. It was taken with a low camera shutter speed, creating the visual perseverance seen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fireworks Safety

As the 4th of July rolls around, the fireworks stands are popping up on the side of the road and on the corners of busy intersections. Every community is celebrating this great nation’s birthday with an explosive and impressive firework display. Families will be having barbecues and parties, complete with small scale fireworks in the streets after the sun goes down.
It’s no secret that fireworks can pose a serious threat to your wellbeing, even when used properly. These are, essentially, paper tubes filled with chemicals that are designed to react with the heat given off from the lighted fuse. Even the seemingly non-dangerous types of fireworks, like Sparklers, can be hazardous. Sparklers burn at 1800°F. That is as hot as a blow torch, and almost ten times hotter than boiling water. Sparklers are the number 1 cause of emergency room visits related to fireworks usage, with the most common injured body parts being the hands, fingers, head, faces, and eyes. Because Sparklers are very common during the 4th of July, this video on Sparkler safety has been included for your review.

Captain Joe has several more videos on YouTube, uploaded by ExpertVillage. He has over 30 years of firefighting experience, and has many short videos full of important safety information.

In 2012, four people died as a result of injuries sustained from improper use of fireworks. An additional 9,600 people were sent to the emergency room. However, even though this is a large amount of people to have been injured around the 4th of July in 2012, the American Pyrotechnics Association reported a 43% decline since the year 2000. The video below (by the NFPA) shows a demonstration of consumer fireworks that are considered “tame” and the effect they can have if you aren’t careful.

Always use fireworks outside and know what kind of firework you are using. Read the label and description of the fireworks before igniting the fuse. You definitely want to make sure you know what that firework is going to do once it’s lit. Also, it is a bad idea to try to manipulate the fireworks into something more than what it is designed for. Modifying fireworks is not safe.
Alcohol and fireworks are a terrible combination.
Supervise: Parents should supervise teenagers with any kind of explosive, and should not let young children handle fireworks. In 2011, 26% of injuries were sustained by children under the age of 15. In 2010, it was 40%.
Have water on standby during your home fireworks show. You never know when one of these is going to get a little too hot. If you have some water ready, you won’t have to worry.

After the firework show:
Soak the used fireworks in water before throwing them away. This will ensure they won’t reignite and burn anything in its path.
As always, this post is not meant to take the place of common sense. These are only guidelines, and you are encouraged to visit the following websites for more information:

http://www.fireworkssafety.org

http://www.nfpa.org/categoryList.asp?categoryID=297&cookie%5Ftest=1

http://www.cpsc.gov/onsafety/2012/06/cpsc-science-fireworks-injuries/

http://www.youtube.com

Heat Related Illnesses

Summer is here – especially in Texas, where the temperatures will be in the 90’s and higher for the next few months. Our employees work outside, so taking care of themselves in hazardous climates is important. This will be the first in a series on taking care of your health in hot weather conditions.

Heat Cramps

It isn’t known what causes heat cramps; however, it is thought to be related to an electrolyte and mineral imbalance. Heat cramps will generally happen to muscles that are tired or fatigued by heavy work. People most at risk for heat cramps will work in a hot environment or people that sweat a lot. In order to prevent heat cramps, make sure you are staying hydrated, and keep cool.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion can occur if you have been in the heat for days, and become dehydrated. Heat exhaustion can be from water depletion or salt depletion.

Water depletion symptoms can include thirst, weakness, headache, or loss of consciousness.

Salt depletion symptoms can include nausea and vomiting, regular muscle cramps, and dizziness.

People most at risk for heat exhaustion are children under the age of 4, and adults over the age of 65. It takes longer for these two demographics to adjust to the heat than other people. People with certain health conditions (such as diabetes, heart, lung, or kidney disease, or high blood pressure) may be at a higher risk for heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion is a serious condition that if not treated by a physician, can turn into heat stroke.

First Aid for Heat Exhaustion

  • Drink plenty of fluid (avoid alcoholic beverages or drinks with caffeine)
  • Remove tight or unnecessary clothing
  • Take a cool shower, or bath
  • Use fans or ice towels to cool the body temperature

If symptoms don’t improve in 30 minutes, contact a doctor immediately.

Heat Stroke

According the CDC, about 440 people die each year from heat stroke. This is the most serious form of heat injury. Call 911 immediately if you think someone has heat stroke. It can progress from lesser heat related illnesses, such as heat cramps, but can still occur if there were no warning signs or symptoms.

It occurs from exposure to high temperatures and dehydration. This causes the body to be unable to regulate its temperature.

Symptoms include:

  • Extremely high body temperature
  • Throbbing headache
  •  Muscle cramps
  • Lack of sweat, regardless of the heat
  • Red, hot, dry skin
  • Nausea
  • Seizures
  • Rapid heart beat (strong or weak pulse)
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Confusion / Disorientation
  • Loss of consciousness

First Aid for Heat Stroke

  • Call 911 immediately if you suspect someone has had a heat stroke
  • Move the person to an air conditioned room, or to a shady area
  • Remove any unnecessary clothing
  • Fan air over the patient while wetting the skin with water from a sponge or hose
  • Apply ice packs to the armpits, groin, neck, and back
  • Immerse the person in cool water or shower

 

Heat related illness can be serious, and, even life threatening. It’s important to stay hydrated and cool when working outdoors, or in the heat. If you feel like you are suffering from heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke, notify someone immediately, and take a break! Be safe out there!

 

This article, in no way, can replace the diagnosis of a trained medical physician, and it is not designed to do so. If you have questions regarding your health, it is essential to seek a professional medical evaluation.

Safety with Hand and Power Tools

Hand and power tools are something we use every day, especially in the oil and gas servicing industry. They make our job easier, but can also pose some hazards if not used properly. Here are some tips to make sure that you are being as safe as you can be while working with hand and power tools:

1. Use the right Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the job and the tool. This can include eye protection (safety glasses), hand protection (gloves), correct fitting clothes, and tied up hair.

2. Use the right tool for the job. Don’t improvise! Serious injuries can occur because someone is taking a short cut on the job.

3. Repair or replace tools that are worn or damaged. Nothing good can come from using a tool that is broken. Be certain to label the damaged tool so no one else uses it.

4. When using power tools – don’t carry the tool by the cord or pull the cord to disconnect from the outlet. Make sure to disconnect the power before repairing any power tools.

5. Use a guard to protect yourself from the dangerous parts of a tool. If you are using a guard, don’t remove it when the tool is in use.

6. Keep the pointy edge of the tools toward the ground.

 

Keep these few tips in mind when you are working with hand and power tools. Be safe out there!