Workers’ Memorial Day April 28, 2019

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April 28, 1971 OSHA opened its doors for the first time. And with that, ushered in a new era focused on the safety of the American Worker. Since that day American workplaces have become much safer, however there is still so much to do.

April 28 is Workers’ Memorial Day

Workers’ Memorial Day is a time we remember and honor the men and women who have lost their lives on the job.

The latest numbers come from 2017 and in that year 5147 workers lost their life on the job. Of that number 491 were in Texas. And 129 of those worked in the construction industry.

Of the 129 Construction Fatalities in Texas in 2017:

  • 44 were from falls
  • 30 were from work-related traffic incidents
  • 19 were from electricity
  • 16 were from being struck by equipment/vehicles
  • 7 were from being struck by a falling object
  • 7 were from workplace violence incidents
  • 6 were from other miscellaneous causes

Why should we have this Day?

No, I am not saying that we shouldn’t remember those that have lost their life on the job. We should remember them. We should learn from that loss.

But we should not have a Workers Memorial Day 2020, or 2021, or 2022…. Let’s eliminate the need for this day by eliminating Worker fatalities. If we perform our tasks safely, if we watch out for ourselves as well as our fellow worker we can eliminate this day.

Let’s make that our goal!

Rings + Construction = Disaster

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Rings are hazardous for anyone that works in construction. The hazards are numerous, but the two most common hazards are ring avulsions and electrical burns.

Ring Avulsions

Ring avulsions were “popularized” 2015 when Jimmy Fallon suffered from one in a horrific but some what mundane and bizarre home accident. And for many people the hazard remains something that is barely worth mentioning. However, for those of us that work in any industry that relies on manual labor the hazard is very real.

Ring avulsion injuries don’t go unnoticed, but because the injury does not always result in what is called “degloving of soft tissue” or “traumatic amputation” the seriousness of the injury can be misjudged. Typical symptoms of a ring avulsion include:

  • Swelling of the finger
  • Redness or bruising around the finger
  • Numbness and tingling down the finger

P.S. if you get queasy looking at gory photos, DO NOT google image this type of injury.

The surgery to repair such an injury is “many-hours-long” and more often than not results in amputation of the injured digit.

Electrical Burns

Most rings are metal. Metal is an excellent conductor of electricity. Simply by wearing your metal rings you increase your potential to create an electrical shock and the associated electrical burns.

Suitable alternative

Wedding rings are an important symbol to many people. And the thought of not wearing one just doesn’t work. So, what can you do instead?

Try one of the many Silicone Ring options that are available on the market. They come in a wide variety of colors, sizes and styles.

Silicone does not conduct electricity so the hazards associated with metal rings and electricity is eliminated.

Silicone rings are also very soft and stretchy….and ultimately breakable. Therefore if the ring did become caught on something it would more than likely break before causing significant damage to your fingers.

Eye Health

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The health of your eyes is a critical component to your overall health. And it is one that is often overlooked.

Eye protection in the form of Safety Glasses is discussed on a regular, if not daily, basis. But we only just scratch the surface (no pun intended) of eye safety and health. For this article we are going to focus on Eye Health. We will return later to discuss more on Eye Safety.

Eye Health = Brain Health

Healthy brain function needs healthy eyesight. The brain is our most vital organ, allowing us to live complex lives. Considering that your optic nerve connects your eyes and your brain, a healthy co-dependent relationship is necessary. By keeping your eyes healthy, you keep your brain healthy – improving your overall quality of life!

Good vision contributes to improved athletic ability, better driving skills, improved learning and comprehension and better quality of life.

There are a number of articles that have been published on eye health.

Click here for a few Simple Tips for Healthy Eyes.

Blue Light

Technology has brought some amazing advancements to our abilities to perform our jobs in construction, and plenty of additional opportunity to tune out of practically any situation and lose ourselves in a movie or game or social media. And with that, we are also exposing ourselves to the potential hazards that come with over exposure to blue light.

Blue light is great in normal dosages. But concerns have begun to be raised regarding the current dosages of blue light that we are now exposed to. There was a time when the only time we were exposed to blue light was when we were outside playing in the sunshine. But now we are exposed from the sun, from our computers, from our phones, from our tablets, from our TVs, from our lights in our house…the list is seemingly endless. So, what can we do to protect ourselves from blue light?

Click here to find out: Blue Light and Your Eyes

Daylight Saving Time – 2019

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It is that time of year again. When the days are getting longer and warmer and we start wanting to spend more time in the sun enjoying our days instead of at work. But to get to that, you have to go through the dreaded time change.

On Sunday morning at 2 AM you will turn your clocks ahead one hour. Or if you are like me, and all of your clocks are magically connected to something digitally, it will happen for you while you are sleeping. If it doesn’t happen for you magically in the middle of the night then do it before you go to bed on Saturday or you might be late for whatever you have planned for Sunday.

Adjust now so you don’t have to adjust all at once on Monday morning

Start trying to go to bed a little earlier each night and waking up a little earlier each morning. By adjusting these times by 15-20 minutes each night/morning you will transition your body gradually rather than abruptly on Monday morning when you actually need to function properly.

This includes Sunday! Don’t sleep in. Set your alarm and get out of bed at your “normal” time. Take a short 20 minute nap if you need to in order to make it through the day, but get out of bed.

Resist the extra cup of coffee, the night cap, and the heavy dinners

I know it may feel like you won’t make it without one or all of these, but for the next three days it really is better to avoid them if you can. They all worsen your quality of sleep, which will in turn create an even bigger deficit than the one you will already be facing on Monday. So, do yourself a favor and avoid the temptation.

Get some sun and some exercise!

Even if you have to bundle up, getting outside in the sunshine can help reboot your natural sleep patterns and help you acclimate. And the exercise will help you get tired enough to go to sleep each night.

Help the kids adjust too!

By simply turning off the electronics at least one hour prior to bed you will help your children rest better. This is good advise even when we aren’t talking about Daylight Savings Time, but for this weekend it is even more critical.

And make their morning routines as simple as possible. Having everything prepared and ready to go the night before will help make getting them out of the door the next morning easier.

Cold and Flu Season

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The dreaded cold and flu season is here.  In the US it ranges from November through April.  And according to the CDC, 5% – 20% of the US population catches the flu annually.

Here are some tips to help you avoid being a victim:

  • Clean and wipe down shared surfaces such as countertops, keyboards & phones
  • Avoid touching you mouth, nose & eyes, and wash your hands thoroughly and often
  • Get a flu shot if possible – it’s most important for children & elderly
  • Eat healthy foods to strengthen your immune system
  • Exercise moderately to maintain a healthy immune system
  • Ask your doctor about vitamin supplement to help support your immune system
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Try to avoid people who are sick & know when to stay home if you become sick

Recognizing the symptoms of the Cold and Flu plays a key role in knowing if you ultimately fell victim.

  • The symptoms of the cold include:
    • Sore throat
    • Cough,chest discomfort
    • Mild fatigue
    • Runny nose
    • Fever and headache are rare
  • The symptoms of the flu are:
    • High fever 102-104 degrees Fahrenheit
    • Headache
    • Extreme fatigue
    • Dry cough and sore throat
    • Runny or stuffy nose
    • Muscle aches
    • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea

Infection can occur 1 day before and up to 5 days after becoming sick.  So it is important for you to do your part to prevent the spread of germs.

  • Cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough.
    • Use tissues when you sneeze or if you have the sniffles.
    • If tissues aren’t available, sneeze into your sleeve – it is another great weapon against germs.
  • Toss tissues in the trash and
  • Wash your hands frequently.
    • Any kind of soap is effective in removing germs if you vigorously rub your hands together under running water for at least 15-30 seconds.

Sharing isn’t always Caring

Stay home if you

  • Have a fever
  • Cannot control your sneezing and coughing

The National Safety Council published Facts About the Flu. Feel free to download it and share with your team members and family.

Heat Stress: Construction Safety and Health

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After the cool temperatures of spring slowly pass, the energy draining temperatures of summer are ready to descend on us. For anyone working outdoors, or work in heat-producing environments, heat is not only uncomfortable, but it can also be very  dangerous.

Heat related sickness affects thousands of workers every year and more than 40 have lost their lives because of it. Unfortunately, about half of these deaths occur in the construction industry. Heat can make anyone sick, but people, who are overweight, have high blood pressure or heart disease are at increased risk. So is anyone who takes allergy medication, decongestants or blood pressure medication.

Heat stress can induce a series conditions and illnesses ranging from rashes and cramps to heat exhaustion and life-threatening heat stroke. However, construction laborers are particularly vulnerable to heat stress and illnesses because of the heavy climates they work in.

Why is heat a hazard to workers?

When working in a hot environment, the body must get rid of excess heat to maintain its stable internal temperature. It is able to do this by circulating blood to the skin and through sweating.

If the air temperature is close to or warmer than normal body temperature, the process of cooling of the body becomes more difficult and the blood that is circulated to the skin cannot lose its heat. Thus, sweating becomes the main way the body cools off. However, sweating is only effective if the humidity level is low enough to allow evaporation, and if the fluids and salts that are lost are adequately replenished.

Remember, if the body cannot get rid of excess heat, it will then store it. When this happens, the body’s core temperature rises and the heart rate will also increase. As the body continues to store heat, the person will begin to lose concentration and will have difficulty focusing on a task, may become irritable or sick, and many times will lose the desire to drink. The next stage is most often fainting and even death if the person is not cooled down.

How to know when it’s too hot:

  • Temperature rises
  • Humidity increases
  • The sun gets stronger
  • There is no air movement
  • No controls in place to reduce the heat imitated from equipment that radiates heat.
  • Protective clothing is work
  • Over all work is strenuous in nature.

Symptoms Heat Illness:

  • Working in high temperatures and humidity, direct sun exposure and no breeze
  • Engaging in heavy physical labor
  • Wearing waterproof clothing

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion:

  • Headaches, dizziness, light-headedness, fainting
  • Weakness and moist skin
  • Irritability or confusion
  • Upset stomach, vomiting

Symptoms of Heat stroke:

  • Dry, hot skin with no sweating
  • Confusion, loss of consciousness
  • Seizures or convulsions

Heat Exhaustion

What can you do to help prevent and protect workers from Heat Stress?

By following a few precautions you can help prevent Heat Stress

Precautions:

  • Know signs/symptoms of heat illness; monitor yourself; use a buddy system.
  • Gradually increase workloads and allow more frequent breaks for workers new to the heat or those that have been away from work to adapt to working in the heat (acclimatization).
  • Provide cool water to drink (five to seven ounces) every 15 minutes.
  • Require rest breaks in a cool, shady spot and with fans available.
  • Schedule heavy work during the coolest time of the day.
  • When possible, assign work that can be done in the shade.
  • Rotate workers when working in the heat is unavoidable.
  • Suggest workers wear lightweight, light-color clothing.
  • Schedule additional rest breaks for workers who wear protective clothing and check their temperature and heart rate.

If a worker has symptoms of heat stroke:

  • Call 911
  • Move him/ her into shade
  • Provide cool drinking water, if able to drink
  • Wipe skin with cool water
  • Loosen Clothing
  • Fan with cardboard or other material

Working in extreme heat is many times unavoidable when working in construction; however it doesn’t have to be unendurable. With preemptive planning, proper training and investment in cooling systems for workers, construction  laborers can work safely when temperatures are high.

Additional Resources for Information on Heat Stress

If you are looking for additional resources on Occupational Heat Exposure there are two specific ones that we recommend.

OSHA-NIOSH Heat Stress (Heat Safety Tool)

The OSHA NIOSH Heat Stress Tool is a free app for your mobile devices. This app allows you to calculate the heat index for your work site (yes, it is GPS enabled so your information is specific to your actual project) and based on the heat index will display the risk level to the employees that are required to work in the environment. With a simple click you can get reminders about the protective measures that should be taken at that risk level to adequately protect the worker.

OSHA Heat Stress

CPWR

CPWR also provides additional training materials from OSHA, NIOSH, as well as  materials they have created. (Working in Hot Weather)