What do you know about Heat Injury Prevention?

Hot weather is certainly here and with it comes the risk of heat illnesses.  The good news is that these illnesses can be prevented by simple precautions.  These precautions include: drinking plenty of fluids before, during, and after activities; limiting exposure to the sun and heat; avoiding dietary supplements that contain caffeine before exposure to heat, during heavy exercise, or for a prolonged period.  Dietary supplements that contain caffeine may cause the body to get rid of fluids increasing the risk of a heat illness.

Dehydration is the most common of heat illness.  It is caused by a loss of body fluids.  During hot weather, this loss occurs from sweating.  Symptoms include thirst, headaches, and fatigue.  Prevent dehydration by replacing lost body fluids with water.  Some sports drinks are also good to use.  However, reduce or eliminate consumption of coffee, tea, or soft drinks that contain caffeine and alcohol because they may cause the body to get rid of fluid instead of retaining it. First aid is to rest in a cool place and drink water to replenish lost fluids. Always seek medical treatment.

Heat cramps is another heat illness.  These cramps affect the body’s major muscles like the abdomen, thighs, and back.  Heat cramps often occur as a result of prolonged action on a hot day with the loss of body fluids.  Symptoms include sharp pain that is not caused by a pulled or strained muscle and persistent muscle contractions during and after activity.  First aid is to take in fluids (unless the victim is vomiting), loosen clothing, and rest in a shady area. Always seek medical treatment.

Heat exhaustion is a more severe heat illness and can occur when people continue to be active during hot weather and lose a large quantity of body fluid.  Symptoms include light-headedness, fainting, loss of coordination, heavy sweating, pale skin, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, or persistent muscle cramps. First aid is to consume fluids (unless the victim is vomiting), loosen clothing, and rest in a shady area. Always seek medical treatment.

Heat stroke is the most serious heat illness and is considered life threatening.  Symptoms include dizziness, weakness, nausea, headache, cramps, and cold and damp skin.  These symptoms signal a failure of the body’s heat-regulating system. First aid is to obtain emergency medical treatment as quickly as possible.  While waiting for emergency medical treatment give the victim water to drink (unless the victim is vomiting or unconscious), loosen clothing, and rest victim in a shady area.

Heat illnesses are very serious and medical treatment should always be given to a victim. Don’t trust your judgment; let a doctor decide how serious the illness is.

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How do you use hazard awareness material?

Materials are the easiest and cheapest method to raise awareness. Unfortunately, they are also the least effective. This method consists of putting posters on bulletin boards, handing out brochures, giving employees buttons to wear or bumper stickers for their cars, having employees watch videos and presenting safety awards.

To make this method work you must search for and purchase materials that directly address the hazard. Secondly, they must be good quality and for a mixed audience. I define a mixed audience as older and younger workers, native English speakers and non-native English speakers, visually and hearing impaired workers and those with normal vision and hearing, and employees from a variety of cultures. This means that not everyone will respond the same way to awareness material. For example, suppose you have posted an English-only poster on the hazards of eye injuries. A worker that recently emigrated from Mexico may not be able to read and understand the poster. This is likely to prevent him from participating in the awareness. Historically speaking, workers left out like this are the most liable to get hurt. I like posters and banners that show the hazard and preventive measure as well as describe them. This way a non-native English speaker should be able to visually understand the message even if they cannot read the poster.

You can use videos that play in the break room or have short supervisor sessions where employees watch the films as a team. Either way, they must be short with someone present to answer any questions that may come up. Safety award presentations work only if they target a specific hazard. For example, a safe driver when the hazard has been identified as forklifts colliding with shelving.

The message on any awareness material has got to be pithy. It must describe the hazard and recommend a preventive measure in a way that almost everyone can understand. However, I recommend that you stay away from slogans that might confuse people. A good example is the company slogan Safety First. Daily, workers are likely told that production is the priority. This creates a contradiction that may lead employees to believe the slogan is a joke. Make sure slogans are realistic and genuine.

I have used awareness materials for over 20 years, and they have a place in any awareness effort. What I find missing is any attempt to see if they are working. When I use posters, I focus on a hazard. I first check employee behavior for 30 days before putting the posters up. I leave the posters up for thirty days. Then I check the employee behavior after the posters come down to see if the employees faced with the hazard were using the preventive measure the poster recommended. If I find the employee behavior has not changed, the poster failed to accomplish its purpose. You cannot expect 100% success with every poster, but I would work towards improving behavior by at least 60 percent through this type of awareness effort. I report these results of an awareness campaign to management.

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How do you Raise Awareness of Hazard?

Some people think hazard awareness is simply putting up posters and OSHA violations on bulletin boards for employees to see. That is part of it, but if that is all you are doing, you are wasting everyone’s time and money. After hazards are identified and their risk assessed, it is important to make employees aware of the hazards so that they can control or eliminate them before injuries and illnesses occur. Hazard awareness methods consist of materials, actions, and events:

  • Materials consist of posters on bulletin boards, brochures handed out, buttons given to employees to wear, videos to watch, and awards to present.
  • Actions consist of posting OSHA violations and company notices of workplace hazards, experts that speak about the hazard, survivor stories to tell, and game shows to play. Actions are passive in nature and provide an opportunity for employees to read or listen.
  • Events consist of stand-down days, health fairs, using a seat belt demonstrator for employees to ride, and product demonstrations. An event provides opportunities for employees to act. Events are active in nature and provide an opportunity for employees to act.

In my book, “How to Use a Systems Approach to Hazard Inspections” (2017) I explained how to identify hazards. I recommended you review the facility hazard list to start identifying hazards. It is critical that employees are made aware of the hazards noted on this list. You should also identify hazards from accident reports, construction drawings, employee physical requirements, inspection reports, and Job Hazard Analyses. Make a list of all the hazards from these sources that have not been corrected. These are what you want to make employees aware of.

The second thing you should do is identify all the safety days, weeks, and months that are held for hazards that your organization has. I suggest you review these activities and determine which ones apply to your organization.

With this information, you will want to implement a management approach to hazard awareness. Let me address a couple of points you should be aware of up front.

In my book, Basic Safety Administration (2003) I explained that “if you have bilingual or non-native English speaking employees it is essential to provide some awareness material in the language they speak naturally.  My experience proves that providing material in the language a person speaks can not only help them know more about the safety program but also gives them some incentive to become an active supporter of safety.  There is also need to look at the different age groups of employees. Younger employees seem to like active, busy posters and awareness material while older employees seem to like straightforward single message material. Focus your material to a broad audience to reach all or most of your workforce.”

How do you pay for awareness material? You will need a budget. I recommend thirty cents for each employee within the organization. This is a formula that works very well. If you have a high hazard organization, this amount should be one dollar per employee. The key is to effectively spend the money on the hazards that are affecting your processes and personnel. You can also get free material and other support from the community for events.

Bibliography

Fanning, Fred. Basic Safety Administration: A Handbook for the New Safety Specialist. June 2003, American Society of Safety Engineers, 2nd edition, Des Plaines, USA.

Fanning, Fred. How to Use a Systems Approach to Hazard Inspections. Mar 2017, Kindle Direct Publishing, Charleston, USA.

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What do you do after inspecting?

What do you do after inspecting? Here is what I usually do.

Take the draft log you wrote while conducting the inspection and now identify the types the seriousness of the hazards that exist. This log should also include the location of hazard, a risk assessment code and any recommendation shows the correct hazard.

After the draft log is completed, you must also collate all the specific deficiencies to see if any systemic problems are involved. “For example, you may have found a fire extinguisher here and there that was discharged. Singularly, this may not seem like a big problem” (Fanning, 2003). However, when you add them together, you may find out that the contractor who was hired to service these extinguishers is doing a poor job. “If you report them separately, it is possible that no one will notice there is a problem. They will normally call the contractor to fix the problem” (Fanning, 2003).

There is a big payoff to fixing systemic problems. “For example, it may be cheaper for a person or contractor to repair several light switches at one time than it is to come out and fix each one as you find them. Systemic repairs also keep the system in check to make sure it is working” (Fanning, 2003).

A cover letter should accompany the log. This letter should give a general description of the inspection and identify systemic causes written so employees can understand and work with the report (Inspection Techniques and Hazard Recognition, 1985). The log must list corrective measures that should be taken to correct the systemic problem.

Workplace notices should be placed at the sites of any high hazards that are found and not immediately corrected. These notices should identify the hazard and explain that it is a high risk. The notice should also identify control measures to reduce the risk until it can be fixed. Furthermore, the notice should identify the person responsible for correcting the hazard and the deadline for correcting it. This will ensure the workforce knows about the hazard and will take steps to ensure it doesn’t cause an accident.

A follow-up inspection should be conducted within 90 days to keep the focus on correcting the hazards and to see if there is some assistance you can provide to help them succeed. This does not have to be a complete inspection. It is just a follow-up and should focus on the problems you identified in the first inspection. However, if you do not conduct the follow-up to correct the systemic problems within the organization, you will simply be doing the same work repeatedly. Perhaps, more importantly, management will be telling the task force that it is too busy with other issues to implement a permanent solution to the root cause of the hazards so they will continue to fix individual hazards as they come up. Once the workforce catches onto such an attitude, it will learn to work with the hazards around them. They will not focus on safety because the management has not demonstrated that safety is important.

Bibliography

Fanning, Fred. Basic Safety Administration: A Handbook for the New Safety Specialist. American Society of Safety Engineers, 2nd edition, Des Plaines, USA, Jun 2003.

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How do you inspect?

“Primarily, inspections that are well planned and thoroughly executed are used to identify hazardous conditions before they result in an accident (Blake 92).” You should look for conditions, procedures, and practices that if left uncorrected can lead to an accident. “But, by identifying the systemic causes of the hazards, you may eliminate the reasons the hazard occurred” (Fanning, 2003).

Secondly, you want to sell the safety program by demonstrating that the program cares about the workers. This is done by speaking with employees and listening to their concerns. “If your approach is helpful rather than harmful, you will establish credibility for yourself and the safety program” (Fanning, 2003).

Make sure you show up with the proper personal protective equipment for the workplace. “You must lead by example and wear this personal protective equipment when you are in a hazardous area. Along with this protective equipment, you will want to get the infamous clipboard, pencils, erasers, a 12′ tape measure, and a few pieces of test equipment. The kinds and types of test equipment will depend on your training and experience.  At the very least, you can get a testing device that will check the wiring and a device that will tell you when electricity is present” (Fanning, 2003).

“The in‑briefing is just an informal briefing to give you an opportunity to let management know what you are going to do and how you are going to do it. Now, no matter who leads you around the area, you have gotten the person in charge involved. Start out with the most obvious; cleanliness” (Fanning, 2003). Getting the place clean and orderly will clear up several “small” deficiencies. You will see cleanliness referred to as housekeeping in most standards.

“Getting the workplace in order can do two things for you: first, the supervisor will see some affirmative action taken right away, and everyone will benefit from the visible improvements in the workplace. This first impression will be important later when you want to try to tackle harder issues and problems. Secondly, a clean, orderly workplace promotes efficiency and enhances pride among those that work there. All of which can lead to a reduction in the number of accidents experienced in this job area” (Fanning, 2003).

As you do the inspection, try to make it a learning experience for the person leading you around “by pointing out what you are looking for, and when you find a hazard, discuss with them why it is a hazard and how they may correct it” (Fanning, 2003).

“As you find a deficiency, note it in a log that includes the building and room number along with the OSHA or another standard that was violated” (Fanning, 2003). As you finish the inspection, make sure to answer any questions the supervisor may have and give them a draft copy of the deficiency log. Remember, you are there to help them, and if they can get a few things corrected before their boss sees the report, it will help your cause, which is to reduce hazards.

If the supervisor did not go with you, go back into their office and tell him what you found both, good and bad, and leave with a promise to help him solve these problems. This is the out briefing. “Remember not to promise to solve them, only to help him solve them. You must leave the out briefing with the supervisor knowing what is wrong, where it is wrong and what they must do to correct it” (Fanning, 2003). Make sure they understand they own the hazards, not you.

Bibliography

Fanning, Fred. Basic Safety Administration: A Handbook for the New Safety Specialist. American Society of Safety Engineers, 2nd edition, Des Plaines, USA, Jun 2003.

 

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What do you do before inspecting?

In an earlier post, I identified several things that you will need to review before conducting an inspection. In this post, I go over the preparation that you will need to do before conducting an inspection.

A good place to go for help with any facility inspection is to get a copy of the facility list from management. This list will tell you what facilities belong to your organization. You will then need to look at the operations conducted in the facilities and determine a rank order of low, medium, or high based on hazard risk. Start out with the most obvious, hazardous material. Make a list of all the facilities that use hazardous materials in their work. Get a copy of the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for each chemical. This is done even for workplaces that use one chemical. The SDS is a document that provides basic information about the health hazards, fire, first-aid measures, protective clothing and equipment, and transportation requirements for the hazardous substance being used. If the SDS is missing, you can contact the company that sold you the product, and they will usually fax or email you one.

If your organization has heavy machinery go on to identify those operations “that require the use of presses, cutting tools, welding, drilling, smelting, or overhead cranes” (Fanning, 2003). These all have the potential for serious personal injuries and property damage.

Next, identify those operations that have a health risk present. Health risks involve things like high levels of noise, LASER lights, use of gasses, confined spaces, and painting.

Take your list of facilities and identify all those facilities or operations that involve a high hazard. High hazards may cause a partial or permanent disability or may even lead to death. High hazards may also cause significant damage to a tool or piece of equipment or may cause the loss of the whole system. Also, high hazards may cause serious illnesses that may lead to disabilities or death. For those reasons, high hazards should be inspected monthly.

“Then make a second list of facilities or operations that involve medium hazard operations. A medium hazard will normally result in an injury that will require medical treatment, property damage of medium value, and may cause occupational illnesses” (Fanning, 2003). For those reasons, medium hazards should be inspected quarterly.

“Lastly, make a list of low hazard operations and facilities. A low hazard will normally result in a first-aid injury, minor property damage and no illnesses” (Fanning, 2003). For those reasons, low hazards should be inspected annually.

Now that you have a frequency to conduct your inspections, you will want to develop the schedule. “You should send this schedule of inspections out so everyone can have a head start on planning” (Fanning, 2003). Take your schedule and notify the supervisor or division chief at least six weeks ahead of time so they will have plenty of time to make themselves “available and locate the keys and people you need to see. You should do this by sending out a letter announcing the inspection and asking for a commitment to the date you have listed or “request a date that is better for them” (Fanning, 2003). Also, request “that you be given a few minutes of the supervisors or division chief’s time for an informal in‑briefing and out briefing” (Fanning, 2003).

A week or two before an inspection is scheduled, you will need to review those things I outlined in Chapter 1. Accident reports can tell you the hazards that caused the accident. Construction drawings can tell you about planned changes in the workplace that could introduce hazards. Employee physicals and medical reports can tell you, for example, who is cleared to wear respirators or who has sustained a back injury. Previous inspection reports can be a gold mine of information. By reviewing them, you can identify things to look for. A Job Hazard Analysis also provides details on hazards that were identified. Equipment Analysis and Purchase Reviews show you changes in hardware and material that can introduce hazards into the workplace.

Now show up on time, ready to conduct the inspection.

Bibliography

Fanning, Fred. Basic Safety Administration: A Handbook for the New Safety Specialist. American Society of Safety Engineers, 2nd edition, Des Plaines, USA, Jun 2003.

 

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Purpose of Inspecting

There are many purposes for a hazard inspection, all of which should be designed to enhance the effectiveness of the organization and the workers. Primarily, inspections that are well planned and executed are used to identify hazardous conditions before these result in an accident (Blake, 1963). I like to refer to inspections as “hazard inspections” because that is the real purpose, to identify hazards. You can call them what you like if you understand the purpose is to identify hazards. To be successful, the inspection must also identify not only hazards but their systemic causes as well (Inspection Techniques and Hazard Recognition, 1985).

By identifying and eliminating hazards, you only correct that hazard. This is what I call a “do loop.” You identify a hazard this month, and it is corrected. A couple of months later, the hazard is back, and you identify it again, and it is corrected again. However, through the identification of the systemic causes of hazards, you may eliminate the reason for the hazard and break this “do loop.” Unfortunately, many organizations continue to only identify and correct hazards one at a time, only to do it repeatedly.

Inspections are also used to show management’s interest in the safety program. What upper management spends time on, the workforce will see as necessary. An inspection may also be used to sell the safety program to employees and provide an opportunity for the safety personnel to contact workers and solicit their support for the safety program (Handbook of Occupational Safety and Health, 1985).

There are many types of inspections, but there are only two basic types of hazard inspections, the one-call and the continuous. The one-call inspections are usually conducted by a safety professional and normally carried out to appraise the recent safety performance of an organization (Blake, 1963). This is the full inspection. Most of us conduct yearly, but the inspections may be performed more often if the organization is involved in a high-hazard operation or if problems exist. The second type of inspection is called a continuous inspection. These inspections are conducted by shop personnel and occur on a continuing basis (Handbook of Occupational Safety and Health, 1985). Many people refer to these inspections as quality control. This is also an area where the supervisor can be very effective (Supervisor Safety Manual, 1967). The supervisor can delegate inspections to specialists who work in this field to expand their knowledge and experience. The supervisor may want to conduct some of the inspections and use this time to enforce their commitment to safety. The continuous inspection is essential because the hazards cannot simply wait for the annual inspection. Hazards must be looked for in a proactive manner and corrected as quickly as possible. In all cases, a systems inspections program can reduce the hazards while showing a continuous effort to improve the system.

Another important type of inspection is the job hazard analysis. This is a systematic and thorough review of the work process as it is being done or before it is done. By identifying individual steps within the course of the job, we can look to see if the steps are properly sequenced, if correct tools are provided, if the job requires the operator to be standing or seated, if protective equipment is needed, and if the requirements of human capabilities have been addressed, and lastly whether the process is getting the product you want. After we identified the hazards within the process, we can apply solutions to correct the hazards and improve the entire process (Accident Prevention Manual, 1997). This analysis can often be time-consuming, but it will provide benefits for the whole life of the process review (Inspection Techniques and Hazard Recognition, 1985).

If the inspections are conducted and hazards later identified by systemic causes, the correction of the systemic defect would eliminate many hazards. Unfortunately, it does not always work that way. If an organization loses sight of systemic causes, it may never fix some of the hazards. Ninety days after the original inspection you conduct a follow-up inspection regarding hazards corrected. You can also encourage management to correct the systemic deficiencies. Follow-up inspections also keep the work on track and keep the emphasis on the defects of the system.

Any safety program can benefit from a good, solid inspection program that is designed to support the organization (Weaver, 1992). Whether it is the one-call inspection, the continuous inspection, or a job hazard analysis, information gained about the condition of the program can be priceless.

Bibliography

Accident Prevention Manual for Industrial Operations, seventh edition. National Safety Council, USA, 1977.

Blake, Roland P. ed. Industrial Safety, third edition. Prentice Hall, USA, 1992.

Handbook of Occupational Safety and Health. National Safety Council, USA, 1985.

Inspection Techniques and Hazard Recognition. U.S. Army Safety Center, USA, 1985.

Supervisor Safety Manual, third edition. National Safety Council, USA, 1967.

Weaver, France. Camping Provides Real Ammunition in War on Civilian Accident Costs, Civilian Accident Prevention Program Report, Winter, 1992: 5-6.

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