Monday, February 23, 2015

Stop Workplace Bullying!


According to the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, surveys show that 5% of workers reported being subject to some form of harassment/bullying in 2005.  Although there are laws to deal with flagrant versions of these social interactions in the workplace, they are often glossed over in an attempt to avoid additional conflict.  These behaviors are often ignored, but this is unacceptable and sometimes dangerous. These actions between coworkers can lead to an increasingly hostile environment.

Harassment can be loosely defined as when a person is subjected to behavior that is repeated, unwelcomed, unsolicited, or offensive. Meaning that according to the survey quoted above, 5 out of every 100 workers are being subjected to some form of harassment in the workplace.

Bullying in the workplace can lead to lower self-esteem, increased stress, and trigger depression. Co-workers may think something along the lines of: ‘it’s just a joke,’ or ‘he/she will get over it.’ Although, it’s important to realize that while sometimes this might be true, there are some cases that can escalate and could result in serious side effects. If ignored, harassment can lead to lower quality output, whether in the product line or customer service, possibly leading to company ethics violations.  In extreme cases, it can lead to P.T.S.D. and even homicides and/or suicides.   Harassment is not a joking matter.

It is better to prevent harassment than to have to deal with the costs of counseling and possible compensation that may be required after the harassment has occurred. 

Five important steps to take to help prevent harassment include: 
  • Outline and clearly state unacceptable behavior.
  • Keep an up to date anti-harassment policy. 
  • Provide conflict management training. 
  • Have clear and strict consequences for harassment complaints. 
  • Maintain confidentiality with all internal issues, making sure rumors cannot be spread due to breached confidentiality.

Always report any suspected harassment, bullying, or discrimination to your PR representative, your union (if applicable), or to the proper supervisor. 

Remember: even if you get a good laugh, the potential risks of workplace harassment are not a joke. 

Thank you for your time and attention.  Let’s make it safe this Monday.

Christopher Feigal
Demand Generation Specialist, Lift’n Buddy, a Southworth Company

Monday, February 16, 2015

Don’t Let the Snow Wreck Your Back


Depending on where you are this winter you have experienced anywhere from hardly any snow to getting snowed in completely.  No matter where you find yourself on that scale it is always good to know the proper shoveling technique so you don’t wreck your back and end up hurt and snowed in.  

The first step to shoveling safely, without injuring your back, is having the right shovel. There are ergonomic snow shovels that can help take some effort out of shoveling.  Certain kinds of shovels are needed for different tasks.  The task that will more than likely be the main cause of back pain is lifting the snow to throw it out of the way.  The best shovels for this are the ones with a sturdy handle and scoop.  Flimsy shovels will cause a lot more issues than they solve.  As you pick out a sturdy shovel you also have to consider the weight of the shovel and especially the scoop.  The metal scoop shovels are nice and sturdy, but the extra weight may result in back injury.  They make shovels with bent and curved handles.  They both take some of the weight off your lower back, but the curved ones are better than the bent ones for tossing the snow because they take some pressure off your wrists too.

Another way to prevent injuries is to stay warm when shoveling and be warm before you go out into the cold.  Warm and flexible muscles will help reduce the risk of injury compared to tight and cold muscles.  It is a good idea to walk around, stretch, and limber up your arms, legs, and back before going out.  Jumping jacks, a brisk walk, or marching in place can help with this.

Another way to save your back is to use proper lifting techniques when scooping the snow. Bend at the knees when lifting the shovel full of snow.  The further down the handle you grab with your second hand will help with the weight of the snow, but you don’t want to have your arms uncomfortably far apart.  Tossing the snow can cause a problem if not done safely.  Try to walk the snow somewhere else and drop it rather than tossing it if possible, when you do have to toss the snow pivot with your whole body rather than just your back.  

Clothing can also keep you safe when shoveling.   Having good boots will provide traction to help keep your feet on the ground because lifting isn't the only way to injure your back, slipping and falling can hurt too.  Good gloves can help keep your hands warm and also provide grip on the handle of the shovel so it doesn't slip and twist around in your hands.

A final thing to help keep you from injury would be to pace yourself.  You don’t win any medals for finishing your sidewalk or driveway first.  Moving smaller, manageable amounts of snow is better than trying to move big, strenuous scoopfuls.  If the snow is really deep, take if in a few loads by removing a few inches off the top before take a big scoop from the bottom.

A quick recap on staying safe this winter and many winters to come is using a light sturdy shovel, limbering up before braving the cold snow, bend with your knees and twist with your whole body, use  good boots and gloves, and pace yourself.  If you follow these guidelines your back will thank you and you’ll be able to shovel your way out of whatever Mother Nature will throw at us.

Thank you for your time and attention! Let's make it safe this Monday!

Dale Bromenshenkel
Demand Generation Specialist, Lift’n Buddy, a Southworth Company

Monday, February 9, 2015

Arc Flash


Arc flashes commonly take place when strong, high-amperage currents travel, or “arc”, through the air. This most commonly occurs when high voltage differences exist across a space between the conductors or ground. Many things can cause this flash including: buildup of dust or corrosion, dropping tools, accidental touching, and material failure to name a few. The flash results in extremely bright lights, serious burns, deafening sound blasts (~140 dB – loud as a gun), blast-forces (~2,000 lbs. / sq. ft), heat energy (up to 35,000 degrees F) l, and high-energy shrapnel (often molten metal) that is capable of vaporizing nearby materials, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). 

Clearly shown, due to the dangerous nature of an arc flash the injuries are serious, and can even result in death. The National Fire Protection Association states that between five and 10 arc flash incidents occur every day on the job in the United States alone.  These injuries can change a worker’s life forever – if they are lucky enough to survive!  As expected, these injuries can place a large financial burden upon a workplace as well due to the cost of downtime, equipment replacement, and medical care / legal fees that can add to an upwards of a couple million dollars.

Although this may be a scare to many, the good news is that it can be prevented. The Safety & Health Assessment & Research for Prevention (SHARP) Program at Washington State Department of Labor lays out the following “Hierarchy of Controls.” By adhering to these, a business can significantly reduce the chance of one of these serious accidents taking place. Their general safety process is to be implemented in the order below.

  • Elimination/Substitution – Jobs should be scheduled so that power sources can be de-energized, grounded and tested thereby eliminating the hazard. Also, in a fashion so that outdated or worn piece of electrical equipment be removed from service or a newer safer model replace it.
  • Engineering Controls – Prevent accidents by engineering barriers to dangerous locations. Locked electrical vaults and high fences around transformers are examples of engineering controls. 
  • Administrative Controls –An effective lockout program that includes all necessary training and equipment needed to implement it is an example of an administrative control. 
  • Work Practice Controls – These are matters of supervisor and worker knowledge, training and education. Does management set expectations for safe work practices? Do workers meet or exceed safety rules and best work practices? Do supervisors encourage and if necessary enforce safety rules and best practices? Is a culture of safety proactively endorsed and practiced by all levels of the organization? 
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – This is normally considered the least effective method of protection. However, sometimes PPE may be necessitated by administrative or work practice controls and by the potential hazards of the work being performed. For instance, wearing insulated gloves, fire resistant clothing and a face shield when working on energized electrical equipment. 

In some circumstances, even if a business is following these standards that SHARP provides, there is still a risk for an accident occurring and injuring the worker. If a worker is injured and still in contact with the energized unit – do NOT touch the victim, shut off the power and call 911. If for some reason one cannot de-energize the unit, remove the victim using non-conductive material. If burns have taken place - run cool, not cold, water over the burns and refrain from applying ointments, creams, or ice. Avoid from giving the victim any food or water and always make sure the victim sees a doctor following an electrical shock or burn. By following these steps, a business will reduce the risk of arc flashes in the workplace and know how to treat an injured worker if an injury happens to take place.

Thank you for your time and attention.  Let’s make it safe this Monday.

Kolton Larson 
Demand Generation Specialist, Lift’n Buddy, a Southworth Company

Monday, February 2, 2015

Distracted Driving


Technology is constantly improving and the ability to be constantly connected to everyone around you is becoming easier and easier with the use of more advanced smartphones, tablets, and computers. As another year begins our handheld technology continues to improve and the amount potential distractions while driving are more prominent than ever before. According to the official government website for distracted driving there was an estimated 421,000 injuries and over 3,000 fatalities due to distracted driving in 2012. Potential types of distractions include:

  • Texting
  • Phone Calls
  • Eating/Drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Doing your make up
  • Reading your directions/GPS
  • Adjusting your music

It’s important to remember that when you drive distracted that you’re not only putting your life at risk, but also the lives of everyone on the road with you. On average sending/receiving a text takes the driver’s eyes off the road for an average 4.6 seconds, which if you’re traveling at 55mph is equivalent to driving the length of a football field blind. 

However, despite most people thinking that texting is the only thing that increases your chances of getting in a car accident, things like interacting with children in the backseat, talking on the phone, and looking at your GPS are all also commonly attributed to distracted driving accidents.

Despite the level of danger associated with distracted driving, millions of people still continue to text, call, etc. and drive. It’s important to remember that it can wait. Responding to texts, answering the phone, or distracting yourself in any way is not worth the risk of potentially injuring or killing yourself or those around you. Ignoring distractions can’t kill you, indulging in them can.

Thank you for your time and attention.  Let’s make it safe this Monday.

Christopher Feigal
Demand Generation Specialist, Lift’n Buddy, a Southworth Company