Tips to Help Your Teen Survive Prom

Introduction

It is that time of year again. Maybe this year it is your teen who will be attending Prom. Prom is an excellent time for parent and teen, and it marks the closure of the teen’s formal education and their move into life. Unfortunately, many teens are not as mature as other and make bad decisions that can cost them their lives. The good news is that you the parent can make a big difference in your teen’s Prom decisions and there are plenty of organizations that want to help you.

The Dangers

Rebecca Lake wrote an excellent article for Credit Donkey titled 23 Prom Night Statistics Every Parent Should Read. In her article (2016) she writes “Accidents are the number one cause of death for young people aged 12 to 19, and those involving motor vehicles are the most common. Statistics show roughly a third of alcohol-related teen traffic fatalities occur between April and June, which is considered the peak of prom season.” Wow, that is shocking news especially since it is illegal for that age group to consume alcohol.

Speaking of alcohol, Rebecca (2016) tells us that “Drug and Alcohol use is more common than you think.” That is disappointing to me as a parent, and I am sure for you as well. Rebecca got her information from a survey of teens aged 16 to 19. Rebecca (2016) reported that the survey said:

  • 1% of those that responded, “said it was likely that they or their friends would use drugs or alcohol on prom night (Lake, 2016).”
  • 84% of those that responded, “said their friends would be more likely to get behind the wheel after drinking than to call home for a ride (if they believed they would get in trouble for using alcohol) (Lake, 2016).”
  • 22% of those that responded, “said they would ride in a car with someone who was impaired instead of calling their parents (Lake, 2016).”

I can relate to some of this information because a friend and neighbor of mine had a son that it took him and his wife many years to have. It was their only child. As a teenager, he got into the car with a drunk friend behind the wheel and died when the driver had an accident. There is no way to replace this young man. I know he loved his parents, but I also know he took a terrible risk and lost his life.

Since drinking seems to be a significant danger for teens, let’s look at another article at Promise.com titled Prom Night and Teen Drinking: The Facts (2018). “High school prom is a milestone in the life of nearly every American teenager. Unfortunately, prom night drinking typically occurs in tandem with this special event. For many teens, prom may be the first time they ever drink alcohol, or the first time they binge drink and get truly drunk  (Promise.2018).” Mix that with driving, and you have a recipe for death. In this article (2018) the author states that “approximately 300 teens have died in alcohol-related traffic accidents during prom weekends over the past several years.” That is more than enough death to cause all parents to want to act.

If your teen is a daughter, there are other concerns you may have for Prom night. Carleton Kendrick wrote an excellent article for Huffington Post titled Prom, Death and Sexual Assault: Helping Your Teen Make Safe, Smart Decisions — The Talk, The Ride, The Connection, The Offer. In this article, he notes that “most date rapes and sexual assaults against girls are alcohol and drug-related.” If you already knew that then maybe you knew another point he made that “A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services national survey reported 39% of high school senior boys considered it acceptable to force sex on a girl who is intoxicated by alcohol or high on drugs.” If those two don’t scare you to death, they ought to. If your teen is a son, you need to make sure he knows these two points also.

Actions to Reduce the Danger

Lucky for parents Promise.com (2018) also has an article titled Tips for Parents: Talk to Your Teen About Prom Night Drinking Hazards. In that article (2018) it states that “statistics show that talking to teens about the issue and working with them to take safety measures makes a big difference. In fact, it is thought that proactive parents contributed to a 53% reduction in driver deaths among 15- to 19-year-olds between 2005 and 2014.” If I could recommend only one tip to you as a parent to reduce the dangers of Prom night, this would be it. However, I am not limited to just one tip.

Another article titled Remember your prom experience? This article provides brochures that highlight other tips for you and your teen. They also have them in Spanish. The Westchester Government makes the brochures themselves. I encourage parents to download these brochures and discuss them with your teen before Prom. If your teen is riding in a limo, speak directly with that limo company owner about his company’s alcohol and drug policies. Do business only with a company/owner who forbids the presence and consumption of alcohol and other drugs in his vehicles. The brochure on Contract Tips and Prom Night Fact Sheet can help you with this.

Kendrick (2018) also recommends you talk to your teen about your concerns. Here is my abridged version:

  • Have a pre-prom talk with your teen.
  • Discuss drinking, drug use, driving under the influence and sex.
  • Get their complete itinerary for the evening.
  • Decide on a curfew.
  • Your teen cannot drink or take drugs and drive.
  • If they are not driving themselves, they must ride with someone who has not and will not drink alcohol or take drugs.
  • If they are going to other teens’ houses after the prom, check ahead of time with these teen’s parents.

Kendrick (2018) also says to give your children the unconditional option of calling you at any time for help or advice. That includes an “offer to pick them up at any time of day or night, with a promise not to shame or humiliate them in front of others, nor to condemn or shame them once you get them in the car or back home.”

Summary

Prom can be a great time in your teen’s life. It can also be a perilous time too. Experts recommend talking to your teen about the dangers of Prom and help them identify what they are going to do to reduce the risk of becoming a victim of those dangers. Together you and your teen can plan a safe and enjoyable Prom. You can find other resources at SADD or Students Against Drunk Driving and MADD or Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Your local Police and Sheriff’s Offices can also provide local safety information for Prom. One closing note is to give your teen the Kendrick offer: “an unconditional option of calling you at any time for help or advice. That includes an offer to pick them up at any time of day or night, with a promise not to shame or humiliate them in front of others, nor to condemn or shame them once you get them in the car or back home.” You will not regret it.

References

Lake, Rebecca. 23 Prom Night Statistics Every Parent Should Read. Retrieved on April 6, 2018, from https://www.creditdonkey.com/prom-night-statistics.html

 

“Prom Night & Teen Drinking: The Facts | Promises.” Alcohol and Alcoholism. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2018 <https://www.promises.com/articles/alcoholabuse/prom-night-teen-drinking-facts/&gt;.

 

Kendrick, Carleton, Huffington Post. The Blog. Prom, Death and Sexual Assault: Helping Your Teen Make Safe, Smart Decisions — The Talk, The Ride, The Connection, The Offer. Retrieved on April 6, 2018, from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/carleton-kendrick/prom-death-and-sexual-assault_b_3115940.html.

 

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Falls Leading Cause of Death

Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry. In addition to falls from scaffolding, there are falls from open-sided floors or through floor openings. Falls from as little as six feet can cause serious lost-time accidents and even death. OSHA 29 CFR Part 1926, subpart M is the primary source of information for these types of hazards. To prevent falls, guard open-sided floors and platforms six feet or more above ground.

If a worker can fall six feet or more onto a lower level, some form of fall protection must be provided. It is the employer’s responsibility to guard the danger and implement a fall protection system to protect the worker. Where and when is fall, protection required? The answer is that fall protection is required when workers are performing the following work:

  • Roofing
  • Bricklaying
  • Excavating
  • Wall Openings
  • Walkways and Ramps
  • Residential Construction
  • Concrete Forms and Rebar
  • Open Sides, Edges, and Holes

Prior to choosing fall protection for hazards on the building site, it is important to know it consists of four options:

  • Guardrails
  • Safety Nets
  • Monitors
  • Personal Fall Arrest Systems (PFAS)

In addition to falling off an object, a worker could step onto and break through skylights and other openings on roofs, the floor, and above the ground. These skylights and openings must be protected if more than six feet above the ground. On sites, holes in the floors must be covered completely and securely. If the cover isn’t available, the hole can be protected with a guardrail. It is necessary to use a PFAS when working on formwork or rebar. This is because there is a high risk of a worker falling onto the rebar and being impaled. To prevent this, protruding rebar must be covered or capped. The cap referred to here is a plastic cap that has a surface larger than the rebar that is installed over the tip of rebar to prevent the impaling.

Guardrails are handrails used to steady a worker while they work on ramps, runways, and other walkways where the employee can fall six feet or more to the ground. Guardrails consist of a top rail between 38 and 42 inches off the bottom surface, toeboards at least 3 ½ inches and a mid-rail in between. If working on a roof, tethers or restraints can be used to prevent workers from reaching the edge, thereby preventing falls. Safety nets can also be used to catch workers if they fall.

Safety nets should be hung as close as possible, but no more than 30 feet below the work area. Falls of more than 30 feet can result in workers injured by landing in the net. As noted earlier, it may be better to install a safety net below the workers to catch them if they fall. In 29 CFR 1926.502, it states that “safety nets shall be installed with sufficient clearance under them to prevent contact with the surface or structures below when subjected to an impact force equal to the drop test specified in OSHA 1926”.

Monitors can also be used. These are fellow workers that watch the locations of employees and stop them from getting close to the edge. This is the least desirable of all the systems because it relies on a worker to pay attention. There is usually a line of flags placed several feet back from the edge to help the monitor identify when a worker gets too close to the edge.

PFAS is comprehensive fall prevention that consists of an anchorage, lifeline, and body harness. Anchorage points secure the worker to a fixed object. The PFAS is harnessed in the worker’s upper back. If the worker falls, an arrest system slows and stops the falling worker before he or she strikes the ground. The anchor must be independent of any platform anchorage and capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds per person on the PFAS. Lifelines are ropes that can slow and hold the fallen worker. Back belts are never acceptable replacements for PFAS. A body belt is fastened at the waist and connected at the front waist of the worker. If used by a falling employee there is no arrest system to slow the worker and when the belt catches, the worker would likely break their back. Body belts are used to hold a worker at elevation and should not be expected to do anything else.

If an employee falls and is saved by a PFAS or a net, he or she will need to be rescued. You cannot simply pick the person up; the human body is dead weight at this point and would take lots of effort to pull up on a rope. An emergency preparedness plan must be in place that includes procedures for obtaining help from local emergency authorities like the fire department or emergency medical services. Early coordination is required between the construction company and the local authorities to ensure that the local authorities can rescue a worker after a fall and, in fact, will respond. Some emergency organizations are not capable of performing a fall rescue, and others won’t perform the rescue because of legal restrictions. If an emergency organization is found that can and will help, it is important to invite them for a site visit to ensure the emergency personnel is familiar with the location before an emergency occurs.

Training

The best person to prevent a fall is the worker; however, they must know what to do to keep from falling. Employers must let the workers know they want them to speak up when other workers are not using fall protection when they should. It is the company that must provide fall protection training. The training is to teach the worker how to recognize and minimize risks. The training must include fall hazards, protection systems, and fall protection devices. The employer must have a competent person appointed to oversee the preparation and use of fall protection. The competent person must have training that will prepare them to fulfill the duties as the competent person on a project where fall protection is needed. Employers must also provide training to workers who will assist in the use of fall protection. Workers must be trained again if the conditions change or workers demonstrate behavior that indicates they aren’t using proper procedures.

In all cases, it is important to document the content of the training as well as dates and times of training. A performance examination should also be used to verify the desired learning took place. The best practice is to have workers and trainers sign a roster to certify the training. Keep all training records for five years.

Summary

The costs associated with a fall can break a company and ruin the lives of workers and their families. Fall protection systems and work practices must be in place before workers start to work six feet or more above ground level to prevent falls. Some alternatives can be used. Workers can perform work at ground level with prefabricated items on the ground and lift them into place with a crane. This can reduce the time working at an elevation, which reduces the risk. A lift can also be used to raise workers to the work area. Whatever method is used to control the hazards of fall protection is time and money well spent. OSHA has developed an entire web page to address fall protection that is a solid place to find information. The URL is https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/fallprotection/.

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Is Your Home Trying to Kill You?

You might not know this, but the average American home can be a dangerous place to live. This is because of the hazards we create and allow to exist in our homes. The leading causes of accidental deaths are a failure to identify hazards, underestimating personal risk, and overestimating our own abilities. More than 50% of all disabling injuries occur during off work hours. Where do most of us spend our off-work hours? For many of us that is home.

The fact that your home could catch fire is a horrifying thought for many of us. However, it is a genuine consideration. Children playing with fire cause many home fires. In our homes, we should use child-resistant lighters, store matches, and lighters up high, preferably locked-up, and never let children play with matches or lighters. Our homes are also at risk of an electrical fire. Many of these fires are caused by our own neglect. Each of us should not overload extension cords, replace fraying or overheating cords, and use proper size fuses in circuits. We should never run electrical wires under rugs, through walls, or through door or window openings. Each of these can damage the cord, and we probably will not even know it.

At one time or another, most of us will have small children at home, and they can be most at risk for an accident. Many children drown in the house. The bathtub is the leading cause. Never leave a child unattended in or near a tub of water. Many parents or adults leave the room for what appear to be safe and logical reasons. Those reasons might include: answering the door, answering the phone, or perhaps responding to another child. Do not leave the child unattended take them with you. Another cause of drowning in children is a pail of cleaning water. Children fall into the bucket while parents are not paying attention. Many children die not from drowning but from chemical pneumonia from the cleaning solvents in the water.

There are many children injured in the home by appliances. The cooking stove in the kitchen is one that parents should place off-limits to their children. Do this to prevent the child from pulling a pan of hot material off the stove onto them. However, the sides and front of the stove may also be hazardous. Most ovens will have a hot outside to them while using. This surface can be more than 140 degrees. That means that in addition to the tradition of keeping children away from the pots and pans on top of the stove they need to stay away from the sides and front.

Home remodeling can also create hazards for our families. Whenever possible use latex-based paints and stains. Be sure the painted area is well ventilated until completely dry. When painting, keep all oil-based paints and stains away from heat and open flame. Store paints, cleaners, and solvents outside the home in a fireproof container and keep all painting materials out of the reach of children.

You should also use appropriate clothing, shoes, and gloves for the task you are doing.  This will include proper hearing, seeing, and breathing protection. You should also carefully inspect all tools and equipment before using them.  Read and follow instructions on paints, solvents, glues, and other chemicals and materials. Inspect ladders before using them and position ladders correctly. An extension ladder should be used at an angle with the bottom about ¼ of the height away from the wall. Stepladders should be used on a flat level surface, and you should never use the top step. Dispose of all waste correctly, safely, and quickly. Don’t leave it around for children or animals to get into. Plan ahead-take your time-haste still makes waste when remodeling or repairing your home.

To keep your home safe, take a few minutes and ask yourself some questions. What will the next accident bein my house? Who will it likely involve? What should I be doing to prevent it? Take the answers you get from these questions and avoid future accidents. The lives and well-being of you and your family are at stake.

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It won’t happen to me!

Staying safe is really a matter of belief. When I did dangerous things as a child, which I thought were safe, my parents set me straight. Later when I went bungee jumping, which I thought was safe, my friends set me straight. When I rode a motorcycle, which I thought was safe, my wife set me straight. Why is it always someone else that recognizes what we are doing is unsafe?

It boils down to our belief system. As a child when I saw people do dangerous things and walked away unhurt they were lauded as risk takers or brave. When someone did something dangerous and got hurt, they were stupid. Since the dangerous stuff, I want to do is my idea I don’t think I am dumb instead I think I will be lauded for my adventurous spirit or adventurous. Never stupid.

You may recognize this as denial, and you are right; however, each time I do something and don’t get hurt or damage something I reinforce my own belief system that it can’t happen to me.

Unfortunately, many other people think the same way I do and that is why you can’t just tell us to be safe because it won’t happen to us.

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Flash Floods and Flooding can be deadly

The flooding in Missouri and Ohio is just the most recent event. Heavy rains are being experienced. These events range from a real nuisance to outdoor activities to creating very serious life-threatening events. The hazards that come with flooding include lightning, reduced visibility when driving, hydroplaning, and the very serious danger of flash floods. They can occur suddenly, with little or no warning, and can be disastrous. Areas such as creek beds, ravines, gulley, gorges, and culverts can be safe one minute and flooded by a raging current of water the next. Well over one hundred Americans die each year from flash floods and floods while the number is over 50,000 worldwide. Flash flood waters move incredibly fast and with a tremendous amount of force. They can push boulders, tear down trees, and destroy buildings, roads, and bridges. Walls of water can reach 10 to 20 feet high very quickly and without warning.

If you watch news coverage of a flood event you will see cars and trucks in window high water and wonder how they got there. Water can be deceptive. It may not look deep until you drive into it. One foot of moving water can move a 1,500-pound vehicle and a few inches of swiftly moving water might wash a vehicle downstream. Another thing you often see is campgrounds being overrun by flood waters many with children. Didn’t they know better? Part of the problem is that it might not be raining where the campers are. Flash flooding can occur from a distant storm and happen so fast the campers may be caught unaware. You will also see homes being washed away. Many times, people, especially, in poor countries live in areas that are unsafe. Unfortunately, these areas are often devastated by severe weather with large loss of human life.

To avoid becoming injured or even killed by a flash flood it is essential that you know and follows precautions:

  • Keep children from playing around high water or storm drains.
  • Never camp on low ground near creeks, streams or rivers, particularly in severe weather.
  • Stay out of low areas like canyons, dry washes and drainage canals in severe weather.
  • Be aware of severe weather near you. It doesn’t have to be raining where you are to flood.
  • Be familiar with the land features where you live, work, and play.
  • Know where high ground is and how to get there quickly.
  • Don’t try to drive through water.
  • Watch for the following signs:
    • Unusually hard rain over several hours.
    • Steady substantial rain over several days.
    • Rains in conjunction with a spring thaw.
    • A monsoon or other tropical system affecting your area.
    • Distant thunder, runoff from a faraway thunderstorm may be headed your way.
    • A weather report of severe weather or a flash flood watch.
    • Water rising rapidly in streams and rivers.

 

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If you want to prevent injuries and illnesses consider making safety a habit!

Through my years as a safety professional, I noticed that some days workers would comply with rules, standards, and protective clothing and equipment requirements while at other times they would not. I have trained workers these requirements as well as encouraged supervisors to remind workers that they must comply. I have used posters to warn workers of the human toll of not complying with these requirements. I have even used behavior approaches to get workers to follow these requirements. As a last result, I have agreed with management to discipline workers that can’t or won’t comply. I can honestly say that none of those worked for very long.

Then I came upon a solution that may seem outside the box to some but is well worth trying. I determined that workers need to establish the habit of following safety rules and standards. This solution will get them in the habit of complying rather than needing to be reminded. I have read many books on developing habits. Some were good others not so. T.C. Peterson writes that “a common pitfall of many habit books is that most of them fail to recognize that human beings have limited willpower and that we start off well and achieve a lot, but that which we realize is not sustainable (Peterson, 2017). That is at the crux of my decision to use habits. I want workers to demonstrate safe behavior that is sustainable. That they will do it every work day for the foreseeable future.

I first used this method with a seat belt program known as Click it or Ticket. I was the safety manager of a military base with thousands of soldiers that drove government and private vehicles. I used the three-step process to develop habits that involved: Cue, Habit, and Reward (Havill, 2015). The cue was sitting in the seat of a vehicle. The habit was for soldiers to fasten their seat belt every time they sat in a vehicle for two weeks. The habit was reinforced by having each soldier sign a pledge to wear a seat belt every time they sat in a vehicle for two weeks. This pledge was a modification of the pledge used by the Click it or Ticket campaign. The reward was recognition by the command for increased seat belt usage. This was reinforced by seat belt usage surveys taken at busy locations. At no time did anyone speak of using the seat belt forever or even talk about the consequences of not wearing a seatbelt.

I got pushback from some people because the pledge and campaign only focused on two weeks. I determined the time frame of two weeks based on what I had read about developing habits. That is if you practice behavior for two-weeks, it becomes a habit. That was the goal of the program. Focus on developing within these soldiers the habit of wearing their seat belt that would last for years to come.

I used the same approach to prevent drinking and driving as well as well as walking against traffic rather than with it. All three applications were successful. I learned that the two weeks application does not always create a life habit in some people. For those, you needed to reapply the two-week period for them to strengthen the habit. I also found that you must reinforce habits periodically.

I did not come up with this idea entirely on my own. I have read books on developing habits. The most well-known was The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I have even heard others say Make Safety a Habit over the years. I recalled Texas Mutual Insurance as well as North American Occupational Safety and Health also use this slogan.

In the past, I always tried to focus on changing worker behavior to control and eliminate hazards because behaviors are outside the worker’s head and I can observe and measure them. I have not tried to change a worker’s values and beliefs to control and eliminate hazards because values and beliefs are inside the worker’s head and I cannot observe or measure them (Skip, 2018). Despite that effort, this new approach to developing habits focuses on changing values, beliefs, and behavior to be successful. The energy the worker puts forth to create the new habit changes their values and beliefs in their subconscious mind. The actual performance of the habit behavior is then done subconsciously. “When you ingrain a new habit, you are making physiological changes to the brain. Some people may use an analogy of “rewiring the brain” (Havill, 2016).

Through my efforts to develop safe habits among workers I learned from T.C. Peterson (2017) that “the result is that your brain accepts these small changes a lot easier and so building on them becomes a non-issue.” Because of this, I kept the changes small. T.C. Peterson (2017) also taught me that “It is not just enough to have smaller habits; they need to be easy. They need to be something that takes less than five minutes or happens once a week or once a month. That is the kind of thing that we can stick with.” Because of this, I would break habits down into smaller actions.

Kyle Havill (2016) says that rewards come in many forms. There are two basic kinds of positive rewards: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic rewards come from outside of you. Examples include money, treats, and participating in activities, like going to the movies. Intrinsic rewards are rewards within you. Examples include pride, satisfaction, and feeling good for doing something sweet for others.

Kyle Havill (2016) explains that when habits are adopted the new behavior is led by the subconscious mind. The person does not need to think about it because it becomes automatic. When you do something subconsciously, it is so much easier because it requires little focus.

I learned from Kyle Havill (2016) that for team members to buy in and commit to the habit development process, they must have a solid understanding of how habits will benefit them and the team, how habits are developed, and all the necessary elements of successful habit development.

A cue must trigger all habits. That means something triggers the behavior. For a hard hat, example stepping onto the construction site would be the perfect cue. For the seatbelt example, it would be sitting in a vehicle.

The supervisor must be obsessive about tracking performance (Havill, 2016). Using the hard hat example where a worker would sign a pledge to wear a hard hat. This means the supervisor must correct every worker they see not wearing their hard hat during that two-week period. Supervisors must also be prepared to have uncomfortable conversations (Havill, 2016). Speaking to those not wearing a hard hat may be difficult, but workers must be reminded they made a pledge they must follow through on.

Dr. Sean Young has done much research into habits and provides most of the conclusions in his book Stick with It: A Scientifically Proven Process for Changing Your Life – For Good. One of the things he points to as an essential element to developing habits is that they must be easy. He reinforces what T.C. Peterson says. I have found the same thing in my experience over the years. You do not want people to work on habits that are more like goals and visions. They have a better chance of success if they work on something smaller like a task.

Before developing a habit, it is essential to explain the idea behind developing habits to perform safe behaviors to the workers. The more they understand the process and how it works the more robust the habit development will be. I took questions that Kyle Havill (2016) developed and applied them to safety:

  • What if we used the safety habit theory to a group of workers?
  • What if groups of 3, 30, 300 or more workers, in a coordinated effort, developed essential safety habits that could control and eliminate hazards?
  • How much could additional costs be avoided if those habits controlled or eliminated hazards before a workplace accident or illness occurred?
  • How many unsafe behaviors could these workers prevent just with the sum of their efforts?

That is powerful. Let us look at an example. I worked for years in the construction industry. Supervisors were always after us to wear our hard hats. They would cajole, threaten, and occasionally even bop a worker on the head if they were not wearing a hard hat. This was the most common approach to getting us to wear our hard hats. Over time hard hat usage remained low. Kyle Havill (2016) recommends an alternate method. The supervisor calls us everyone together and tells them why they must wear hard hats and how they can develop the habit of wearing them. Finally, the supervisor makes each worker sign a pledge to wear their hard hat every day for two weeks. During that two weeks, the supervisor would remind those that weren’t wearing theirs and remind them of their pledge, but no other action would be taken. I think this example would be useful and work. What other safety habits could you create in workers?

Habits for home:

  • Wear my seatbelt every time I am in a vehicle (Skip, 2018).
  • Put all children in approved child safety seats before any vehicle trip.
  • Put all medicines and poisons in high cabinets or place child safety locks on cabinet doors.
  • Do not drink and drive.
  • Serve as the designated drivers whenever necessary to save a family member or friend’s life.
  • Do not mow my yard wearing sandals.
  • Always wear hearing protection when mowing.

Habits for work:

  • Wear personal protective equipment when required.
  • Speak up when I see a co-worker performing unsafely.
  • Report unsafe and unhealthful working conditions to my supervisor (Skip, 2018).
  • Report all accidents to my supervisor.
  • Report all injuries to my supervisor.
  • Go home each day in the same condition I arrived at work (Skip, 2018).

Habits for supervisors and managers:

  • Provide adequate personal protective equipment and training on its use to all my direct reports (Skip, 2018).
  • Correct unsafe and unhealthy work conditions.
  • Investigate accidents and injuries to determine the root cause (Skip, 2018).
  • Correct root causes found by accident investigations.
  • Send my direct reports home each day in the same condition they arrived at work.

To me, it seems evident that safety professionals need to teach workers how to develop new safety habits to prevent injuries and occupational illnesses. This concept has been proven in other uses and can be just as successful with safety. Establishing the habit of following rules, standards, and wearing protective clothing and equipment is the solution we have all been searching for. I encourage you to read the references listed below and learn more about developing habits. If you want workers to demonstrate sustainable, safe behavior for the foreseeable future I think habits is the tool you need to implement.

References

Havill, Kyle, How to Build Work Teams Habits: Improve your Customer Experience, Increase Efficiency, and Enjoy Better Business Results, 2016, USA.

Peterson, T.C., Easy Habit Mastery, 2017, Charleston, USA.

Skip the New Year’s Resolutions in Favor Of Developing … (n.d.). Retrieved from https://fredefanningauthor.com/2018/01/03/skip-the-new-years-resolutions-in-favo

Young, Sean Ph.D. Stick with It: A Scientifically Proven Process for Changing Your Life – For Good. June 20, 2017. HarperCollins Publishers.

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Make Safety Training and Presentations Accessible

It may not sound very innovative to make training accessible for all students who attend, but the truth is that this is not normally done, and any effort put forth to facilitate learning is indeed innovative. This method can be used with little or no effect on the students in your class who do not experience accessibility issues. You must make all your training accessible and in this blog entry, I will provide important information about how you make training inclusive so all can learn.

In a Professional Development Conference Proceedings Paper Sharon Campbell (2000) reminded us that making sure the student gets what we give also applies to those students who have issues with hearing, seeing, or learning. Sharon states that the biggest problem is that many students are either in denial about their communication difficulties or are unaware of them. As the trainer you can use innovation to overcome some learning difficulties and ensure the students get the learning he or she came for. Two good rules of thumb for any safety trainer are to “1) assume that some of your audience members cannot hear well and 2) never offer anything verbally that isn’t also available simultaneously visually” (Campbell, 2000).  Accessible training and presentations are those in which the trainer or speaker has considered the possible realm of communication issues that his or her students may be experiencing and have made accommodations to assist the student in overcoming the issues and learn the material. Every student coming into the classroom deserves a chance to learn and using accessible training can give them that chance. Sharon Campbell (2000) said it best “Always remember the purpose of safety training and realize that if someone is only partly trained because of a failure to fully understand the material, the consequences can be severe…particularly if you were asked and refused to accommodate a request for assistance”. The benefits far outweigh the potential cost and inconvenience of providing these services to students. There are many examples of these methods around us, but many don’t recognize them. Trainers should use videos that are open captioned or closed captioned with the captioning turned on to ensure students can hear or read the material being presented. Respond to all requests to do something to help a student hear. Use an assistive listening microphone or stationary microphone and don’t walk away from the stationary microphone. If the audience is over 100 people, the trainer can use real-time captioning or sign language interpreters. There are also assisted listening devices that can be used by students to ensure they receive the material. Technical terms should always be defined to ensure that every student understands what the trainer means by them.  Last but certainly not least, test students to identify their retention and level of understanding of the material. (Campbell, 2000)

As the trainer plans for any training he or she must bear in mind that 10 million adults in this country are illiterate in the English language (Copeland, 2003). Furthermore 30% of Hispanic workers are illiterate in their own language (Copeland, 2003). In her 2003 presentation in Denver Laura Copeland recommended that handout information be at the 6th grade level. Trainers must ensure that all training materials can be understood by their students who have a variety of reading levels. This means that graphics can be used instead of words so that less reading is required. More of the learning can be demonstrated rather than written. Videos can also be used to explain learning objectives rather than having students read. All of this is done to make sure the student can learn. This will not be without some extra cost and work for the trainer. The key is for the trainer to keep the learning interesting so that the students who can read well are not turned off by the material or presentation method. The payoff is that the entire class can meet the learning objectives without leaving anyone behind. The person left behind has a higher chance of causing an accident.

This method can be used by a trainer who has a learning objective for his students to know the basic steps in a Bloodborne Pathogens program. The trainer begins his instruction by showing a film that shows the basic elements put forth in the Code of Federal Regulations and the contents of a first aid kit visually rather than in writing. The film is 10 minutes in length and should be easily understood by each of the ten students in the class. The trainer then asks the students to recall the individual steps and define them for the other students of the class. The trainer passes around two kits for the students to see as the instructor holds up an item and calls on a student to name the item and tell what it is used for. The class with video and demonstration takes 50 minutes and allows for 10 minutes of questions. After questions, the instructor ends the class.

In 2001, Latino workers represented 11% of the labor force in this country, but they also represented 17.1% of the workplace injuries or illnesses that resulted in lost workdays. One of the main ways to improve worker safety is by communicating with employees in the language they understand. Trained employees were more successful in demonstrating basic knowledge of workplace safety and health concepts; however, they do not demonstrate significantly more knowledgeable than those that have not received training.  “Oral Presentation in Spanish+Bilingual Training Methods allows the effective understanding of concepts, participants’ interaction in the classroom with an effective scrutiny, and knowledge, of key terminology in English” (Ruano and Sanchez, 2005). Lizzette Vargas-Malpica notes that there is growing interest among governmental agencies in developing safety and health training and technical material in Spanish to help workers overcome language barriers (Vargas-Malpica, 2005).  Conducting training bilingually can be a challenge for the trainer; however, with proper training and support, it can be done properly.  There will be additional costs associated with this training for translation and development of training materials in more than one language. The good news is that all students can participate. Hispanic workers often avoid asking for clarification or explanations to prevent the embarrassment over their limited English language ability (Vargas-Malpica, 2005).

The trainer of a respiratory hazards class speaks Spanish naturally and English is his second language; however, he speaks it fluently. The instructor provides the instruction in Spanish and has all his handouts in both Spanish and English so that his students can learn the words they will see in the workplace compared to the Spanish words they are familiar with. The trainer begins the class with a Spanish speaking video that introduces the topic. The trainer then goes on to a hands-on demonstration with clear plastic bags of dust, particles, and fibers so each student can specifically see the hazard. The trainer follows this with an explanation of respiratory protective devices and notes the name of each in Spanish and English and refers the students to their handouts for the actual words in written form. The instructor answers any final questions and gives a quiz in Spanish with terms in English and Spanish.

All around us we read and hear how Americans are older than ever before and that as the Baby Boomers retire there will be a shortage of workers that will require many older workers to continue working.  Aging influences the ability of older workers to learn; however, with minor accommodations older students can learn and retain that learning as effectively as younger students. The methods used for older workers include brain-based learning and situated learning.  Brain-based learning is low stress in a collaborative environment. It is filled with a multitude of tasks that occur as life occurs at the job site. This method focuses on twenty-minute blocks of time to maintain focus.  The whole learning experience is enriched by multi-media. Situated learning takes place in the social and physical environment so that students can learn from each other in a real setting (Jackson, 2005). For older students, it is important to reduce the number of tasks that require the use of memory. This is done by providing the student with handouts and take-home material for them to refer to later. Ensure the classroom or training area is well lit with limited background noises to impair the hearing. Handouts should be on bright white paper with black letters for sharp contrast (Arditi, 2008).  The font style is also important and Dr. Arditi recommends a roman font with a 12 pitch with the standard letter and line spacing (Arditi, 2008).  This will not be without some extra cost and work for the trainer. The key is for the trainer to keep the learning interesting so that students of all ages can learn without some feeling left out. The payoff is that the entire class can meet the learning objectives without leaving the older students behind. The older student left behind has a higher chance of causing an accident and with the healing response of the older body taking longer than a younger body this employee may be out of work longer.

A trainer is conducting a class on the OSHA accident reporting requirements for supervisors of a local Construction Company. The group has many older employees who are wearing reading glasses in the class. The trainer notices that one employee in the back has a hearing aid. The trainer begins with six overhead slides to list a few basic changes. These slides have as few words as possible with 28 pitch font that can easily be read from the back of the classroom. The trainer also uses a white slide with black letters to make the letters easier to read.  As he speaks the trainer uses a pin on the microphone so all the students can hear her. She breaks the class up into four groups and gives each group a situation and questions for the group to answer. The handout is on white paper with 12 pitch font which is easy to read. Being in the groups allow the students to discuss the situation and respond to the questions allowing all members of the group to participate. The final assignment of the class is for each student to complete two example forms. These forms are on bright white paper with Times New Roman-12 pitch font, so they are easily read. Each student completes the task to standard. The trainer answers any remaining questions and ends the training.

Even after reading this blog entry you may not be excited about making training accessible for all students who attend; however, I hope you will take every opportunity to facilitate learning for all your students. These methods are very important to students in your class who have accessibility issues. Take the information in this essay to heart and make all your training accessible.

References:

– Arditi, Aries.   Making Text Legible: Designing for People with Partial Sight, 2008.  Retrieved from URL http://www.lighthouse.org/accessibility/legible/ on February 11, 2008.

– Campbell, Sharon Lynn, Accessible Training and Presentations, Proceedings Paper, American Society of Safety Engineers Professional Development Conference, 2005, New Orleans, LA.

– Copeland, Laura, Training that Rocks, Proceedings Paper, American Society of Safety Engineers Professional Development Conference, 2003, Denver CO.

– Jackson, Alma, Health and Safety in an Aging Workforce, Proceeding Paper, American Society of Safety Engineers Professional Development Conference, 2005, New Orleans, LA.

– Ruan, Norman and David Sanchez, The Importance of Bilingual (English/Spanish) Workplace Safety and Health Training: Methodologies, Proceeding Paper, American Society of Safety Engineers Professional Development Conference, 2005, New Orleans, LA.

– Vargas-Malpica, Lizzette, Training in Occupational Safety and Health in Immigrant Communities Tailored to Cultural Backgrounds, Proceeding Paper, American Society of Safety Engineer Professional Development Conference, 2005, New Orleans, LA.

 

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