This June marks the 26th anniversary of the National Safety Council’s (NSC) National Safety Month. As health and safety have become more important than ever before given our current environment, NSC’s National Safety Month awareness initiatives are dedicated to educating and influencing behavior around the leading causes of preventable injuries and deaths in and out of the workplace. While facilities adjust to new modes of work, ensuring employee, facility, and equipment safety is critical — now and in the ongoing pandemic climate.
For 2022’s campaign, NSC is sharing safety messages on four pressing topics — one for each week: musculoskeletal disorders, workplace impairments, injury prevention, and slips, trips, and falls. Continue reading for the latest information and resources to keep people safe, including how best practice visuals help support safety protocols in various workplace environments.
Safety Month Topic – Week 1: Preventing Musculoskeletal
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) are injuries or disorders of the muscles, tendons, nerves, cartilage, joints, and spinal discs. These types of injuries are unfortunately common in the workplace as repetitive tasks, forceful exertions and certain conditions can cause new or aggravate existing problems. As with any injury, these types of disorders are responsible for lost productivity, increased health care, disability, absenteeism, and workers compensations. The most common musculoskeletal disorders that result from the workplace are as follows:
- Chronic Back Pain: These injuries are most common among nursing assistants, laborers, material movers, and maintenance workers. The CDC recommends that numerous controls can be made to intervene with back injuries, being engineering controls to redesign the workplace for ergonomic sense, administrative controls to adjust work schedules and workloads, and programs to promote employee exercise and muscle strengthening, as well as training on proper lifting and handling techniques.
- Arthritis: This term is used as a scope for rheumatic diseases and conditions that affect joints, tissues that surround them, and other connective tissues. Construction, mining, and agricultural workers are the most at risk for arthritis, as many of their tasks include heavy loads, exposure to vibration, and prolonged periods of working in unnatural or awkward postures. It is recommended to implement new engineering controls like mechanical assist devices to reduce heavy lifting, or clearly mark lift points on packages, as well as redesigning a workplace to include adjustable workbenches. Administrative controls that can be implemented are to include frequent rotations in the schedule to reduce the amount of time on a shift, and making sure that there are enough workers on the schedule to allow for proper recovery time after each shift.
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: This is a condition that affects the nerves and ganglia outside the spinal cord and brain, specifically the nerve at the wrist which can cause numbness, tingling, or atrophy in the hand and fingers. This mainly affects workers on two sides of the spectrum, laborers and operators, as well as technical and sales workers, due to repetitive tasks. The best way to prevent this from developing and worsening in the workplace is to remind workers to not bend their wrist in unnatural positions, not grip objects as tightly for hours on end, and to include stretching and strengthening exercises into their day.
Musculoskeletal disorders can emerge in all work settings, from typing at a computer, to performing heavy manual labor day in and day out. The best way for workplaces to prevent these injuries from happening to their workers is by training them in proper handling techniques, incorporating intelligent design, as well as providing them with materials and education to strengthen their muscles outside of the workplace
Safety Month Topic - Week 2: Addressing Workplace Impairment
Workplace impairment is often addressed as a hidden risk that prevent someone from being able to perform safely due internalized or unseen issues. These can include, mental health disorders, chronic stress, substance and drug use before and at work, and even fatigue. According to a recent 2020 poll from the NSC, 52 percent of employers say that impairments like the above are decreasing the safety of their workforce.
While an employer should have a clear statement of what they consider it as, impairment can be identified through any of the following characteristics:
- Failing an alcohol or drug test while on the job
- Consistent lateness, absenteeism, or reduced productivity or quality of work
- Appearance of impairment at work (poor coordination, slurring, unsteady)
- Working in an unsafe manner or involvement in an accident
- Personality changes or erratic behavior
As impairment can be extremely different from one employee to another, workplaces should use this time to make sure they have a comprehensive policy on codes of behavior and acceptable levels of safety performance that are expected. This should include a timeline of steps to take, from how to identify impairment, discussions with an impaired employee, to action items if necessary. The NSC also hosts a training program for supervisors to address these issues.
Safety Month Topic - Week 3: Injury Prevention by Identifying
Hazards and Risks
Having and enforcing an injury prevention plan is important, as it is a proactive way to reinforce hazard recognition and encourage safe behavior, which helps reduce loss of productivity, money, and equipment. Many of OSHA’s recently released top 10 workplace safety violations list for 2021 were recurring incidents from year after year. In many areas, this points to employers still struggling to provide the proper training materials and programs to employees. The fundamentals of an injury prevention plan start with communication — both verbal and visual — and employee engagement. To develop effective communication strategies that promote employee engagement:
- Conduct regularly scheduled safety trainings: Ensure all employees receive the appropriate safety training related to their duties, including trainings on how to wear personal protective equipment when required. Make sure any changes to the plan are swiftly communicated and that all documentation is made available. Encourage two-way dialogue by welcoming employees to ask questions about procedures and to immediately point out safety hazards if they arise. These useful steps help show employees that you care about their safety.
- Communicate safety hazards: In a perfect world, all workplaces would be free of safety hazards. Since that’s impossible for nearly all employers, alerting workers of facility and equipment hazards is critically important. In addition to training, incorporating safety labels on products and equipment helps warn end users of hazards to prevent interacting with them. Safety signs help keep employees and visitors safe and meet OSHA rules and regulations. Utilizing best practice safety visuals at your facility and on your equipment helps meet your legal ‘duty to warn’ requirements and reduces your premises liability exposure.
Achieving and sustaining an injury-free workplace demands a universal and continuous improvement in occupational health and safety management systems. To help your injury prevention implementation, ISO 45001, the occupational health and safety management standard is a good starting point. This gives organizations across the U.S. and around the world a structure to plan, support, implement, and evaluate their efforts to eliminate risks to workers. Some ways that ISO 45001 can aid in injury prevention include;
- Reduced work-related injuries and fatalities.
- Eliminated or minimized OH&S risks.
- Improved OH&S performance and effectiveness.
- Increased worker engagement through their participation in the certification process.
- Demonstration of corporate responsibility and meeting supply chain requirements.
- Protection and improvement of brand reputation.
This ISO 45001 standard is applicable to any organization regardless of its size, type, and activities. It shapes itself to the OH&S risks under the organization’s control, taking into account factors such as the context in which the organization operates and the needs and expectations of its workers and other interested parties.
Safety Month Topic - Week 4: Slips, Trips, and Falls
Year after year, slips, trips, and falls make it on OSHA’s top safety violations list, and 2021 was no different, with fall protection violations being number 1 and accounting for 5,295 safety violations. Ladder safety violations were number 3, scaffolding number 4, and fall protection training requirements were number 7, showing the prevalence of safety violations as they relate to falls.
Just one month ago in May, we even recognized OSHA’s safety stand down campaign, an entire week targeted at preventing falls in the construction industry. Yet still in 2020, 805 workers died in falls, with 211,640 injured to the point to require days off of work. Slips and trips are included with this, as 136 workers were kills by falling on the same level, not even from a tall height. A few ways to keep workers safe are as follows:
- Make full use of signs and labels, both on equipment (like messages related to machines that should not be used as steps) and throughout the workplace (indicating when surfaces are slippery or have been cleaned).
- Try to implement a safety-based culture at your workplace so staff and crew know that "safety first" is more than just a slogan.
- Ensure carpeting is slip resistant. Use slip resistant shoes.
- Encourage workers to always use handrails when ascending or descending staircases.
- Ensure that your workplace is fully OSHA compliant. For instance, guardrails and toe-boards are required by law around dangerous equipment, open floors, runways, and platforms if there's any chance a worker could fall.
- Keep equipment fully operational and fix repairs that can lead to slip and fall accidents immediately. Ensure that workers are properly trained on how to use the equipment.
Your Partner for Product
and Workplace Safety Needs
Worker health and safety is a top priority. Now more than ever, as many workplaces have faced significant changes during the past few years related to the pandemic, remote work, hiring challenges, and increased digitalization and automation, proactively maintaining safe facilities and equipment is critical to prevent injuries and protect your business liability. Clarion Safety provides comprehensive machinery safety and risk assessment services, with full-service product safety and liability prevention capabilities. We also offer our digital safety management solution, ClarionAccess®, a platform that can help you to manage product safety, customer resources, and training information. Get in touch with us to learn how we can get your safety visuals up to date with the latest standards to keep your products safe and to protect your team from harm.