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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Dying to Stay Warm

 

Each winter people find themselves without heat or with inadequate heat. These people often resort to space heaters to keep warm. During cold spells like much of the Unit States is now experiencing there will be more people needing heat. Unfortunately, many will be injured by improperly using heaters. Identifying the hazards associated with the space heater and taking steps to eliminate the hazards is vital.  Removing hazards is the only way to reduce the danger.

You can purchase heaters at local hardware or box stores. Space heaters are easy to buy, but not as easy to use as we often assume. Only purchase Underwriter Laboratory (UL) approved heaters. UL tests products before putting their label on them. Always read the instructions for the heater and operate it correctly. Never make repairs to a heater. Take them to a reputable repair shop or purchase a new one. Always use the proper fuel.

The NFPA (2018) says that “Heating equipment is a leading cause of home fire deaths. Half of home heating equipment fires are reported during the months of December, January, and February. Some simple steps can prevent most heating-related fires from happening.” Improperly operating the space heater is usually the root of the problem. Adequate operation begins with reading and complying with the instructions. There is no training offered. The closest thing is the instruction page or booklet that comes with the heater. Monitor the heater to ensure it operates correctly or is shut off. Heaters should not be left to run for hours without someone checking on them. The NFPA offers heating safety tips at their website at  https://www.nfpa.org/public-education/by-topic/top-causes-of-fire/heating/heating-safety-tips. I encourage you to check them out.

Some space heaters use fossil fuels. Vent the exhaust from these types of heaters outside the space inhabited by people. Bring fresh air into the room if you cannot vent the exhaust. This prevents exposing the people to Carbon Monoxide or CO2 gas. CO2 is colorless and tasteless. You cannot detect it without an alarm or measuring device. I recommend using a home CO2 alarm. Avoiding exposure to this gas is critical.

Other heaters use electricity. Always check the circuit and outlet before plugging the heater in. Heaters draw large amounts of power and can overload a circuit or outlet. Also, make sure extension cords used with a heater are the same wire gauge as the cord of the heater to prevent overheating the extension cord. Furthermore, do not run extension cords under rugs or carpets. If the wire heats up, it can catch the rug or carpet on fire. I recommend using smoke detectors in any home or apartment. When using space heaters, the need for a smoke detector is more significant. Combination smoke and CO2 detectors can be purchased to save money. I also recommend having a small multi-purpose fire extinguisher on hand.

It is essential to keep all combustible material from the heated element or fire. These include paper, cardboard, clothes, and chemicals. Furthermore; all space heaters must have a tip over a device that will shut the heater off if it is tipped over. When a heater tips over it can place the heating element or fire near the floor. If the floor is carpet or a rug, the heater can catch the rug on fire.

With extreme periods of cold comes more use of space heaters. Now is the time to take steps to prevent fires and injuries from these heaters. I hope you will go to the NFPA site and review the safety tips. The CPSC also has some useful information for electric heaters on their website at https://www.cpsc.gov/Global/Safety%20Education/Home-Appliances-Maintenance-Structure/098.pdf.  I encourage to consider this information as well. This information can be more helpful if you share it with family and neighbors. If you have older family members and neighbors additional help may be required to allow them to operate space heaters safely.

References

NFPA, Public Education, Heater Safety Tips. Retrieved on January 11, 2018, from https://www.nfpa.org/public-education/by-topic/top-causes-of-fire/heating/heating-safety-tips.

CPSC, CPSC Alert, Reducing Fire Hazard from Portable Electric Heaters. Retrieved on January 11, 2018, from https://www.cpsc.gov/Global/Safety%20Education/Home-Appliances-Maintenance-Structure/098.pdf.

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Skip the New Year’s Resolutions in favor of developing safety habits!

My favorite New Year’s resolution is to do less stupid stuff than I did last year. Seriously, each year about 50% of us in the United States will make a New Year’s resolutions. Some of the more common resolutions include losing weight, spending more time with family, saving more money, and taking time for you. How many of us will actually keep that resolution? Less than 10% actually keep their New Year’s resolution. This year I recommend making a Safety and Healthy New Year Habits, not resolutions. Here are some New Year Habits for the home:

  • I resolve to wear my seatbelt every time I am in a vehicle.
  • I resolve to put my child in an approved child safety seat before any vehicle trip.
  • I resolve to put all medicines and poisons in high cabinets or place child safety locks on cabinet doors.
  • I resolve to not drink and drive, even if I have to walk home.
  • I resolve to serve as the designated drivers whenever necessary to save a family member or friend’s life.
  • I resolve not to mow with sandals on.
  • I resolve to always wear hearing protection when mowing.

Here are some New Year Habits for work:

  • I resolve to wear personal protective equipment when required.
  • I resolve to speak up when I see a co-worker performing unsafely.
  • I resolve to report unsafe and unhealthful working conditions to my supervisor.
  • I resolve to report all accidents to my supervisor.
  • I resolve to report all injuries to my supervisor.
  • I resolve to go home each day in the same condition I arrived at work.

Here are some New Year Habits for supervisors and managers:

  • I resolve to provide adequate personal protective equipment and training on its use to all my direct reports.
  • I resolve to take action to correct unsafe and unhealthy work conditions.
  • I resolve to investigate accidents and injuries to determine the root cause.
  • I resolve to correct root causes found by accident investigations.
  • I resolve to send every employee reporting directly to me home each day in the same condition they arrived at work.

Maybe you have your own habits. Either way, if you would like to develop safety and occupational health habits in your workplace in 2016 I suggest you get the book “How to Build Work Teams Habits: Improve your Customer Experience, Increase Efficiency, and Enjoy Better Business Results” by Kyle Havill. This book effectively outlines the process to implement habit forming in teams. The book is very detailed and gives a lot of valuable information. Take this opportunity to make those new habits.

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The Dangers of Children Swallowing Batteries

Introduction

My wife and I have two sons. When they were young, we worried about many things. One of those things was them swallowing small things. We taught them never to put batteries in their mouth. I do not remember teaching them not to swallow a battery. After our sons were grown, I occasionally heard of children swallowing batteries. Many of these children sustained severe injuries. These cases are concerned enough for me to do a little research and write this blog post to identify the hazards and provide solutions to the dangers.

Hazards and Dangers

How often does this happen? Katrina Woznicki (2016) tells us that “research shows there has been a significant increase in both button and cylindrical battery ingestions, particularly among children, and that the batteries that are lodged in the esophagus must be removed within two hours to prevent serious injuries, including tissue tears, burning, and internal bleeding.” I was shocked when I first heard that this was a growing trend. I still cannot imagine a child would swallow a battery.

Michelle Castillo (2017) explains that “Button batteries are blamed for an uptick in emergency room visits, study finds.” That makes sense to me because button batteries are tiny and I can see how a child could swallow them where the other sizes of batteries seem too large to swallow. However, I am wrong. Michell Castillo (2017) goes on to explain that “From 1997 to 2010, approximately 40,000 emergency room visits for children under age 13 were due to the consumption of batteries. In the cases where the battery was identified (69 percent), more than half of them – 58 percent –  were button batteries.” I would never have guessed that swallowing batteries would send 40,000 to the emergency room. Apparently, this is a severe problem. The key here is that children will ingest any battery, but over half will likely ingest a button battery. Button batteries seem to be in a wide variety of devices, which probably makes it easier for a child to get hold of them.

I was shocked to read in Michell Castillo’s (2017) article that “Fourteen of the cases, which involved kids from 7 months to 3 years, were fatal. There were 12 cases where they knew the battery type involved was the small, coin-sized batteries.” It had not occurred to me that swallowing a battery would be fatal.

One of the dangers of swallowing a battery is that they “get stuck in the esophagus…where saliva triggers an electric current which causes a chemical reaction that can severely burn the esophagus in as little as two hours” (Children’s, 2017).

The National Capital Poison Control Center (2017) also says that children can and do place button batteries in their nose and ears. They go on to say that the symptoms to watch for include pain and or discharge from the nose or ear.

Solutions

It is essential to get the word out about this hazard. I was an uninformed parent you do not want to be. Katrina Woznicki (2016) highlights the resolution as “Researchers also call on manufacturers to create child-resistant measures to secure the battery compartment on everyday household products and create industry standards that would require warning labels to help reduce battery ingestion.”

Safe Kids Worldwide also offers tips on their website. I encourage you to go there and review them. The URL is https://www.safekids.org/safetytips/field_risks/batteries. I have highlighted the Safe Kids Worldwide (2017) tips here:

  • “Keep coin lithium battery-controlled devices out of sight and reach of children” (Safe Kids, 2017).
  • “Keep loose batteries locked away or prevent small children from accessing the battery” (Safe Kids, 2017).
  • “Share this life-saving information” (Safe Kids, 2017).
  • “If you suspect your child has ingested a battery, go to the hospital immediately” (Safe Kids, 2017).

You can call the National Capital Poison Center at (800) 498-8666. There is even a National Battery Ingestion Hotline at (202) 625-3333 (Safe, 2017).

For a button battery stuck in the nose or ear, the National Capital Poison Control Center (2017) recommends taking the child to a doctor. They also recommend not using “nose or ear drops until the child has been examined by a physician, as these fluids can cause additional injury if a battery is involved.” These drops produce the same effect as saliva in the esophagus. They may trigger an electric current causing a chemical reaction that can severely burn the nose or ear.

Summary

I am glad that neither of my sons ever swallowed a battery let alone a button battery. We could have been lucky. The danger from swallowing batteries is real and can even cause death. Experts say the this is a growing problem and all the information that I see supports that. If you have a child, you know they will stick almost anything in their mouth, nose, and ears. It is crucial that parents prevent children from putting batteries, especially button batteries, of all kinds in their mouth, nose, and ears.  It should only take a minute or two to pass this information on to caregivers, friends, family members, and sitters. Take the time because your effort may prevent an injury or even save a child’s life.

References

Woznicki, Katrina. WebMD, Swallowing Batteries a Growing Risk for Kids. Retrieve on December 9, 2017, from https://www.webmd.com/children/news/20100524/swallowing-of-batteries-a-growing-risk-for-kids#1.

Castillo, Michelle. CBS News, Most fatal child battery swallowing accidents due to tiny batteries. Retrieved on December 9, 2017, from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/most-fatal-child-battery-swallowing-accidents-due-to-tiny-batteries/.

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Lithium Button Batteries. Retrieved on December 9, 2017, from http://www.chop.edu/centers-programs/kohls-injury-prevention-program/lithium-button-batteries.

Safe Kids Worldwide. Batteries. Retrieved on December 9, 2017, from https://www.safekids.org/safetytips/field_risks/batteries.

Poison Control (National Capital Poison Center). Swallowed a Button Battery? Battery in the Nose or Ear?  Retrieved on December 9, 2017, from https://www.poison.org/battery.

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A Soldier’s Christmas by Michael Marks

Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone,

in a one-bedroom house made of plaster & stone.

I had come down the chimney with presents to give

and to see just who in this home did live.

 

I looked all about a strange sight I did see,

no tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.

No stocking by the fire, just boots filled with sand,

on the wall hung pictures of far distant lands.

 

With medals and badges, awards of all kind

a sober thought came to my mind.

For this house was different, so dark and dreary,

I knew I had found the home of a soldier, once I could see clearly.

 

I heard stories about them, I had to see more

so, I walked down the hall and pushed open the door.

And there he lay sleeping silent alone,

curled up on the floor in his one-bedroom home.

 

His face so gentle, his room in such disorder,

not how I pictured a United States soldier.

Was this the hero of whom I’d just read?

Curled up in his poncho, a floor for his bed?

 

His head was clean shaven, his weathered face tan,

I soon understood this was more than a man.

For I realized the families that I saw that night

owed their lives to these men who were willing to fight.

 

Soon ‘round the world, the children would play,

and grownups would celebrate on a bright Christmas day.

They all enjoyed freedom each month of the year,

Because of soldiers like this one lying here.

 

I couldn’t help wondering how many lay alone

on a cold Christmas Eve in a land far from home.

Just the very thought brought a tear to my eye,

I dropped to my knees and started to cry.

 

The soldier awakened, and I heard a rough voice,

“Santa don’t cry, this life is my choice;

I fight for freedom, I don’t ask for more,

my life is my God, my country, my Corps.”

 

With that, he rolled over and drifted off to sleep,

I couldn’t control it, I continued to weep.

I didn’t want to leave him on that cold dark night,

this guardian of honor so willing to fight.

 

Then the soldier rolled over, whispered in a voice so clean and pure,

“Carry on Santa, it’s Christmas Day, all is secure.”

One look at my watch and I knew he was right,

Merry Christmas my friend, and to all a good night!

 

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