Changes in First Aid Recommendations for the Workplace

First Aid training is probably the only type of instruction an employer provides that everyone in the workplace hopes never to need. However, when an injury or illness strikes, knowing how to effectively administer proper First Aid can be the deciding factor between a quick or a lengthy recovery, a temporary or permanent disability, and in some cases, life or death. That is why it is imperative to be familiar with common First Aid procedures. It is equally significant to learn the correct way to administer aid procedures so they are safe to perform.

In an attempt to discredit some of the faulty notions that have developed concerning current First Aid treatment recommendations, the American Safety & Health Institute (ASHI) along with 25 other nationally recognized organizations joined together to form the 2005 National First Aid Science Advisory Board (NFASAB). The Board’s mission was to review and evaluate the existing scientific literature on First Aid to determine the most effective treatments for common workplace injuries. They reviewed data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cochrane Reviews, which are evidence-based evaluations of the effects of health care treatments, the U.S. National Library of Medicine, and medical journals and textbooks.

As a result of the Board’s review and evaluation of this data, they recommend the following procedures:

  • If an employee is bleeding, apply pressure firmly for an extended period of time, until either bleeding stops or paramedics arrive . Earlier guidelines also recommended elevating a bleeding limb above heart level and, if direct pressure was ineffective, pressing on specific arterial points. Actual evidence is insufficient to recommend for or against these practices and also the use of tourniquets .
  • Thermal burns should be treated with cold water as soon as possible, but direct application of ice to a burn area can cause harm. Avoid cooling burns with ice or ice water for longer than 10 minutes, especially if the burn covers more than 20% of a person’s body.
  • If an employee has a soft-tissue injury such as a sprain, strain, contusion or fracture, apply cold to the injury to decrease hemorrhage, edema, pain and disability. Cooling is best accomplished with a plastic bag or damp cloth filled with ice, which is more effective than re-freezable gel packs. To prevent injury, limit each application to periods of no more than 20 minutes and place a barrier, such as a thin towel, between the ice container and the skin .
  • To prevent a minor wound from becoming infected, cleanse the wound with clean tap water until all foreign matter has been flushed. Apply triple-antibiotic ointment or cream only to a scratch or superficial wound. Previous methods recommended applying antibiotic to all wounds no matter how deep.
  • Do not give water, milk or syrup of ipecac to someone who has ingested poison. Previous guidelines allowed use of these substances in certain cases after consultation with a poison control center, but they may be harmful and are not recommended now.

By keeping yourself and your employees up to date with basic First Aid care, as well as maintaining a well-stocked First Aid kit on-site, you can significantly reduce the chance of a severe trauma that could have been prevented by simple First Aid. 

Preventing Violence Before It Happens Through Pre-Employment Screening

Violence in the workplace has become an increasingly more common occurrence. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in its 2004 report entitled Fatal Occupational Injuries by Event or Exposure, 1998-2003, there were 631 documented workplace homicides in 2003. Workplace homicides are the second leading cause of death in the workplace and they make up 16% of all occupational fatalities.

With statistics like these, it is the duty of every employer to make violence prevention a number one priority. Avoiding potential violence should begin with the hiring process. This is the company’s opportunity to weed out any violent individuals before they get a foothold in the workplace.

The pre-employment screening process begins with the application. If an applicant omits information or there are gaps of time in the area of job history, the applicant should be instructed to fill in the missing information. If the applicant cannot provide the information, the employer needs to determine when and if it can be provided, note it on the application and then follow through with getting the information if the person selected is to be given an employment offer. Ensure that all of an applicant’s information is on hand before any offer is made.

The interviewer will have the most significant opportunity to assess the applicant’s stability. Begin with the person’s overall physical appearance and grooming. Is it interview appropriate? The next level of assessment involves body language and eye contact. While the applicant is speaking, are they looking you in the eye while answering questions in a relaxed manner? What is your own comfort level during the interview? What is the applicant’s response level to questions? Do they answer the questions asked or are they evasive? Do they provide too little information or do they go out of their way to give an elaborate explanation? By discussing what an applicant liked or disliked about the tasks associated with different jobs they held and why they left those jobs, an interviewer can often get a sense of possible aggression towards the company that if pushed far enough can manifest itself in workplace violence.

If the applicant seems acceptable, then the next step is to do a thorough background check. This is the major area where most companies fall short in the evaluation process. If you do not get an immediate response from a past employer or a reference, follow up until you do. Don’t assume that the failure is due to being too busy to respond. Sometimes the lack of response is avoidance. It is not unheard of for one company to pass a problem employee off on another. To investigate further, in addition to the telephone background check, you can also examine court records, credit reports and driving records.  However be advised that you need a signed release from the applicant to conduct this type of background screening. Your corporate counsel should be your consultant in the development of any pre-employment screening methodologies to be sure they do not violate existing laws.

Many companies also conduct drug testing as part of their pre-employment screening process. Drug testing identifies individuals who have the potential to become problem employees.  It is easier to eliminate individuals on the basis of failing a drug test prior to employment then it is to terminate them once they have been employed. While drug testing doesn’t eliminate all potential problem employees, it does reduce their number.

No matter what procedures you use to screen applicants, the important thing to remember is that you must follow through. If you only make a half-hearted attempt, it’s the equivalent of no attempt at all. 

Understanding Material Safety Data Sheets Can Save You from Injury

For many workers, handling hazardous chemicals is part of their daily routine. However, no matter how routine, you should never let your guard down when it comes to handling chemicals properly. Each chemical has its own set of hazards, which means the recommended emergency procedures for each chemical are different. If you are going to handle chemicals safely, you should be aware of the manufacturer’s recommended handling and storage procedures, the personal protective equipment you will need when handling, and the actions to take in the event of a chemical spill or leak.

You can find this information on the “Material Safety Data Sheet” (MSDS), which must be sent from the manufacturer/supplier along with the chemical. OSHA requires all chemical manufacturers/suppliers to provide customers with MSDS’s that answer the questions listed above. However, OSHA does not require that MSDS’s be written in a standard format and most are written in technical language, which can be difficult to understand.

Realizing the need for standardization, The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Chemical Manufacturers Association developed a standard format for MSDS’s. While its use is voluntary, many chemical manufacturers/suppliers have already adopted this format. The information provided by this format is broken down into the following sections:

Section 1 lists the manufacturer’s name, address and telephone number, the product name, the generic names for the chemical, the commonly used industry name and possibly, an emergency telephone number.

Section 2 provides information on the chemical’s ingredients. OSHA requires that all hazardous components be listed on the MSDS. Non-hazardous ingredients are usually included too if helpful in determining how to use and store the chemical.

Section 3 identifies the hazards of the material. This section is divided into two sub-sections. The first sub-section provides an overview and the second sub-section discusses the potential health effects of the chemical.

Section 4 describes basic first aid procedures to be used by a worker with no specific training in first aid. Instructions are provided for each type of potential exposure.

Sections 5 and 6 provide information, precautions and instructions to fight fires caused by the material, including hazards the material presents when burned and what methods can be used to extinguish flames.

Section 7 addresses risk prevention when working with the material, including proper storage procedures.

Section 8 discusses controls and protective equipment.

Section 9 describes the physical and chemical properties of the material.

Section 10 contains information on stability and reactivity of the chemical including whether the chemical has the potential to react with another substance due to oxidation, heat, decomposition or polymerization.

Sections 11 through 13 outline toxological and ecological information, including how to dispose of the chemical.

Sections 14 through 16 explain methods to transport the chemical.

Material Safety Data Sheets are important tools when working with hazardous chemicals. Of course, a tool is only effective if you understand how to use it. Be sure you know where the MSDS’s are kept for the chemicals you use and familiarize yourself with them. And most importantly, know where you can find the emergency information on all of the MSDS’s for chemicals in your work area.

Tips to Prevent Sprains and Strains At Work

Many jobs require lifting and pushing in one form or another as part of the routine job description. Employees that frequently lift or push objects need to be aware that lifting, pushing, and over reaching can cause strains and sprains. Such injuries typically affect the back, arms, and shoulders and are caused by improper handling techniques. If your job requires you to push, pull or lift during the day, make sure you know how to perform these activities properly.

The first issue to keep in mind is that most strains and sprains happen because people lift objects that weigh too much. Before lifting anything, size up the load to determine if you have the physical strength to lift without straining. If you don’t possess the physical capability, you can either break it down into smaller loads, if applicable, or seek help from a co-worker. If you use carts or hand trucks, be sure they are in good operating condition. These devices can put additional strain on your back if they don’t work correctly or if you overload them.

If it is within your physical capability to lift the load, then be sure that you use the correct procedure. Stand close to the object. Then squat down and bend your knees, not your back. Grip the object firmly and lift slowly. As you lift, straighten your legs until you are standing erect. Carry the load close to your body near your waist. Never lift the object above your shoulders. If you have to turn while lifting, point your feet in the direction you’ll be heading; don’t twist your back.

If you must push or pull a load, bend your knees and use your legs and the weight of your body to move it. Take small steps and keep your stomach muscles tightened. You should lean slightly into the load if you are pushing, and lean slightly out if pulling. Note that it’s always better for your body if you can push rather than pull an object.

Repeatedly lifting heavy objects is the most common cause of strains and sprains. However, injuries can also happen as a result of lifting moderate loads in awkward positions or remaining in a bent-over or twisted position for long periods of time. Remember, the further the load is from your body, the greater strain placed on your back. You should always attempt to position any load you are carrying at waist level. Keep your body as close to the work area as is safely possible. And most importantly, never overestimate your physical ability to lift or carry an object.

Follow Safety Standards, And Common Sense, To Ensure Safe Scaffold Use

A scaffold is an elevated, temporary work platform that is engineered in a specific manner to support a defined weight load. Ensuring the safety of workers who utilize scaffolds, and avoiding injury to nearby people or property, requires choosing equipment that meets current safety standards, installing it as directed by the manufacturer, and using it for its intended purpose. Any tampering with the construction or weight load can result in injury or death.

The first consideration when practicing scaffolding safety is proper selection. Only use scaffolds that have been tested to the ANSI/SSFI SC 100 standard. When choosing a suspended scaffold, be sure that the hoist complies with ANSI/UL 1323 and that it has been tested and approved by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or ETL Testing Laboratories. Parapet clamps, cornice hooks and outrigger beams should be tested to the ANSI/SSFI SPS 1.1 standard.

One of the problems associated with scaffold use is collapsing, which can result when the scaffold is overloaded or improperly assembled. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions concerning loading. Evaluate the weight of the workers and materials that the scaffold will support, and determine if the buildings or structures that may be used to support the scaffold are adequate for that weight load.

Another common accident involving scaffolds is overturning or tipping, which can occur if a scaffold is not properly tied. The general rule is that ties must be installed if the scaffold height, as measured to the uppermost platform, is greater than four times the smallest base dimension. Cantilevered platforms, such as side brackets and hoist arms, can exacerbate the problem of overturning and may require that the scaffold be tied at lower points. Additional ties may be necessary if an enclosure is put on the scaffold, because any enclosure, even an open mesh one, increases wind loading, which can cause overturning.

Scaffolds should be equipped with toeboards to avoid injuries to the people and property below from falling tools, materials or debris. The ANSI/ASSE A10.8 standard says that toeboards are required with guardrail systems on all open sides and ends of a scaffold if the structure is in a location where individuals are required to work or pass under it.

The standard goes on to say that when materials are piled higher than the toeboard, the scaffold must be equipped with a safety screen that is strong enough to prevent objects from falling. The screen must be positioned between the toeboard and the toprail and extend along the entire opening.

When a scaffold is in use, don’t allow workers to remove a scaffold component without authorization, because it may cause the structure to become unstable or render safety equipment dysfunctional. You should also never permit workers to alter scaffold components or use them for purposes for which they were not designed.

If a rolling scaffold is being used, wheels or casters must be locked to prevent scaffold movement. In addition, the top platform height, as measured from the rolling surface, must not exceed four times the smallest base dimension. Secure or remove all materials from rolling scaffolds before moving them. Never permit workers to ride a rolling scaffold.

By following established safety standards, and using a common-sense approach, you’ll be able to avoid some of the most common accidents and injuries that can result from scaffold use.

Compressed Air: The Least Recognized Hazardous Material

Workers in many industries use compressed air as a power source for their tools and equipment. Unfortunately, workers sometimes don’t realize the potential dangers inherent in compressed air use, so they fail to take necessary safety precautions. Improper compressed air usage can result in disabling injuries and possible death.

In training employees about compressed air use, first discuss the three major hazards:

·   Skin penetration that causes hemorrhaging and pain-Compressed air can enter the body through cuts in the skin. If this happens, an embolism (air bubble) may form in the bloodstream. If the embolism migrates through the circulatory system to the heart or lungs, it can cause a blockage in a blood vessel in the organ, which could result in death. If compressed air enters the body through the mouth or nose, it can injure internal tissues and organs. If an employee is hit in the eye with compressed air, it can push the eyeball out of the socket. Blowing compressed air into an ear can rupture the eardrum.

·   Flying debris-Air pressure of 40 pounds can cause particles to hit the eyes and face with the same intensity as shrapnel. Flying particles can also cause cuts to other parts of the body.

·   High noise level-Noise levels caused by compressed air usage can reach or exceed 120 decibels, a level at which hearing damage can occur.

Any training about the correct use of compressed air should include instruction on the need to wear personal protective equipment (PPE). Wearing PPE is essential if an employee is to be protected from the dangers outlined above. You should require all employees working with compressed air to wear safety glasses with side shields or goggles, a face shield, hearing protection, and a dust mask or respirator.

Compressed air safety training also should cover the following rules:

·   Check to see that the line being worked with is an air hose, and not a gas or water line.

·   Inspect the hose to see that it is free of holes, and properly connected.

·   Keep air hoses off the floor so they won’t be damaged by foot traffic. Hoses laying on the floor also pose a tripping hazard.

·   Don’t allow sharp objects to rub against an air hose while it is in use.

·   Coil the hose when it’s not in use and hang over a wide support. Never hang it on a hook or nail. Check the coiled hose and smooth out any kinks, which can cause cracking in the hose.

·   Use the lowest air pressure possible to complete the job.

·   Never point an air hose at anyone.

·   Never use an air hose to clean dust from clothes. Use a brush or vacuum instead.

Incorporating correct compressed air usage guidelines into your company’s safety protocols helps your employees to avoid unnecessary and dangerous working conditions, and can reduce the number of accidents that occur.

Use Foresight When It Comes to Protecting Your Eyes

The way we see involves a complex interplay between light, brain and eye. When light strikes an object in your field of vision, the rays enter each eye and hit the eye’s lens. The rays stimulate the nerves in the lens, which carry messages to the brain. The brain takes the message it receives from each eye’s lens and fuses it into a sharp single picture. Because this mechanism is so complex, it is also extremely vulnerable to injury. Therefore, protecting your eyes from damage at work should be one of your major concerns.

One of the best ways to protect your eyes is by using safety glasses. Safety glasses are so effective in preventing injury that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) incorporated specific guidelines into its standard, 29 CFR 1910.1333, as to when you should use them. If your work exposes you to hazards from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation, OSHA mandates that you wear safety glasses.

OSHA also requires that you use safety glasses with side protection when you face a hazard from flying objects. Detachable side protectors, such as clip-on or slide-on side shields, are permitted as long as they meet the agency’s requirements of providing full protection from flying objects.

If you wear prescription lenses, you are still required to wear safety glasses if the possibility of eye injury exists. You have two options. You can wear eye protection that has your prescription incorporated into its design. Or, you can use eye protection that can be worn over your prescription lenses, as long as doing so doesn’t disturb the proper position of the prescription lenses or the protective lenses.

In addition to wearing safety glasses, you should protect your eyes by having a thorough eye examination every two years. Many diseases can affect the eyes. However, changes in vision are usually gradual, which is why it is so important to monitor eye health with regular examinations.

Here are a few other tips to help you keep your eyes healthy:

·   Don’t use over-the-counter eye remedies or treatments unless advised by your doctor.

·   Don’t wear sunglasses for night driving or in fog.

·   Don’t look directly at the sun, even while wearing sunglasses.

·   Don’t work in dimly lit areas.

·   Don’t rub your eyes with dirty hands.

Sometimes you must accept a little discomfort, inconvenience or expense in order to protect your eyes, but the sacrifice is well worth it. If the unexpected happens, your protective eyewear could make the difference between keeping your sight and losing it.

Take Care of Your Hard Hat, So It Can Take Care of You

Of all the pieces of personal protective equipment you wear, your hard hat is probably one of the most important. In order for it to protect you, it has to be properly worn and maintained.

The following tips will help you use your hard hat appropriately and keep it in optimal condition:

·   Inspect your hard hat before each use. Your hard hat is made up of the shell and the suspension. Begin your shell inspection by looking for cracks, nicks, dents, gouges and any damage caused by impact, penetration or abrasions. If your hard hat is made of thermoplastic materials, you should check the shell for stiffness, brittleness, fading, dullness of color or a chalky appearance. If any of these conditions are present, or if the shell is damaged, replace it immediately.

Ultraviolet light can cause deterioration to the hat’s shell over time. If your work is predominantly in sunlight, replace your hard hat every two years. The same is true if you work in an environment that has a high exposure to temperature extremes or chemicals. Most hard hats have date codes on the underside brim of the cap so you can readily determine a hat’s age.

Inspecting the suspension system is just as important as inspecting the shell, because the suspension absorbs the shock of a blow to the top of the hard hat. Look for cracks or tears, frayed or cut straps, or lack of pliability. All keys should fit tightly and securely into their respective slots. Any suspension that shows signs of damage should be removed from service and replaced immediately.

·   Limit the use of stickers. Stickers won’t necessarily interfere with the hat’s performance, but you should limit their use so you are able to thoroughly inspect the shell for signs of damage.

·   Replace a hat that has been struck by a forcible blow. Any impact can reduce a hard hat’s effectiveness, so a hat that has suffered a blow should be replaced, even if it is relatively new or shows no visible damage. A hard hat that has been dropped more than eight feet requires replacement.

·   Never modify the shell or suspension. Do not drill ventilation holes in the shell. Avoid having your hard hat come into contact with electrical wires. Never use a suspension that is not intended to be worn with a particular shell or use a shell made by one manufacturer with a suspension made by another. Never carry or wear anything inside of your hard hat between the suspension and the shell.

·   Don’t wear your hard hat backwards unless the manufacturer says you can. Before wearing the hat backwards, you should have written verification from the manufacturer that your hard hat has been tested and found to comply with the requirements of the American National Standards Institute when worn with the bill turned to the rear. The manufacturer may specify that the suspension must be reversed in the helmet, so that the brow pad is against the forehead and the extended nape strap is at the base of the skull, leaving only the shell of the helmet positioned backward on the head.

Following these tips can help to ensure that your hard hat can protect you as it was intended to do.

Everyone Bears Responsibility for Accident Prevention

When it comes to accident prevention in the workplace, you are your brother’s keeper. You have a responsibility to make sure that the co-workers around you, or those who use the same tools, equipment or materials that you do, are not injured because of your negligence. Furthermore, to make the workplace as safe as possible for everyone, all workers need to keep their eyes open for any dangerous situations in their midst.

Keep the following in mind to make your workplace as safe as possible:

·   Warn a worker who is in a dangerous position. Sometimes inexperience can cause a worker to perform a task in a manner that may result in injury. If you see this happening, don’t just explain to your co-worker what he or she is doing wrong; demonstrate the right way to do it.

·   Call attention to a task if a worker seems distracted. Conversation and noise can present serious distractions. If a co-worker seems not to be paying attention to the task at hand, go over and try to gently re-focus his or her attention.

·   Set a good example. Always use tools and equipment in the intended manner. Never joke around when handling tools or equipment. Remember, younger co-workers can be influenced by the behavior they see in their older peers.

·   Keep machine guards in place. Machines usually have moving parts that may accidentally come into contact with a worker’s body. When this happens, the worker can be killed or maimed. Machine guards prevent contact with moving parts during the normal operation of the machine.

·   Report tool/equipment defects to your supervisor. Continuing to use a defective tool or piece of equipment instead of reporting it could result in possible injury to you or a co-worker.

·   Encourage co-workers to report every injury. Sometimes an injury that seems insignificant can escalate down the road. If an accident is not reported at the time it occurs, it may not be covered by insurance if it is reported at a later date.

·   Encourage co-workers to wear personal protective equipment (PPE). Your employer provides PPE so that you will be protected. Always wear it if it is necessary for the task being performed. Ask co-workers to wear it as well.

·   Ask questions if you are confused about what you have been asked to do. Never perform a task unless you are completely sure of the correct way to do it. Ask your supervisor to show you the proper method.

·   Take safety suggestions in the cooperative spirit in which they are made. Co-workers are responsible for each other’s safety. If a suggestion is made about the way in which you are performing a task, don’t respond with anger. Instead, thank the co-worker making the suggestion for caring enough about your personal safety to take the time to correct you.

When all workers look out for themselves and others, everyone’s safety is enhanced.

Good Housekeeping Is One of Your Job Responsibilities

Good housekeeping at work means keeping both the facility itself and your own workspace clean, neat, and orderly. The reason housekeeping should be a priority is because it is the first line of defense in any company’s accident prevention strategy.

If housekeeping is to be effective, it has to be ongoing, not an activity that’s performed before management inspects the premises. Failure to keep up with necessary housekeeping tasks can result in employees:

·   Tripping over loose objects on floors, stairs and platforms

·   Being struck by falling objects

·   Slipping on greasy, wet or dirty surfaces

·   Hitting against projecting, or poorly stacked items

·   Cutting, puncturing, or tearing the skin of hands or other parts of the body

To properly maintain the facility, materials, supplies and parts must be stored in their designated storage areas when not in use, tools and equipment must be arranged in an orderly manner and placed away from traffic areas, scraps or debris in the department must be removed on a daily basis, and stairways and platforms must be kept clear. Attention should also be paid to keeping the aisles and passageways clear. Never store or stack materials in aisles.

When you keep the facility clean, you lessen the chances of both employee and visitor accidents because you will have removed the things that cause slipping, tripping, and falling. You have also lessened the likelihood that people will be involved in “struck by,” “striking against,” and “caught-between” accidents.

If your work area is in disarray because of a project you are working on, or if you cannot immediately clean your workstation, make people aware of the danger by posting signs that alert them to the potential risk.

In addition to accident prevention, there are other benefits to maintaining good housekeeping: 

·   There is an easier flow of materials, which reduces handling and saves time.

·   Clutter-free and spill-free work areas expedite movement, again saving time.

·   There is a decrease in the number of fire hazards.

·   Exposures to hazardous substances are reduced.

·   There is a better control over tools and materials because you know where to find them.

·   Without obstacles in the way, it is easier to clean and maintain equipment.

·   The environment is more hygienic, which improves health.

·   There is a more effective use of space.

·   The likelihood of materials and equipment being damaged is reduced.