Safety

March 2019 Risk & Safety Newsletter

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January 2019 Risk & Safety Newsletter

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Cleanliness Helps Prevent Foodborne Illness

Spring has long been the time of year for annual cleaning projects around homes and offices. However, when it comes to safe food handling, everything that comes in contact with food must be kept clean all year long.

Food that is mishandled or not stored properly can lead to foodborne illness. Follow a “Be Food Safe” policy. Being food safe means preventing foodborne illness by following four easy steps:

1.      Clean – wash your hands and surfaces often and disinfect with food-safe Clorox wipes or Lysol.

2.      Separate – don’t cross contaminate. Keep food covered in airtight containers or sealants.

3.      Cook – Cook all foods to proper temperatures and don’t let them stay out in the open air too long.

4.      Chill – Refrigerate promptly.

Cleanliness is a major factor in preventing foodborne illness. Even with food safety inspections and monitoring, the consumer’s role is to make sure food is handled safely after it is purchased. Everything that touches food should be clean. Here are some suggested steps to take to help prevent foodborne illnesses:

  •    Wash your hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds

    o   Before and after handling food

    o   After using the bathroom

    o   After changing a diaper

    o   After handling pets

    o   After tending to a sick person

    o   After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing

    o   After handling uncooked eggs, meat, fruits and vegetables

If your hands have any kind of skin abrasion or infection, always use clean disposable gloves. Thoroughly wash with hot soapy water any surfaces that have been in contact with raw meat, poultry, fish, or eggs. Use disposable paper towels to clean surfaces, not dishcloths or sponges. Spray or wipe surfaces with disinfectant after cleaning them.

Keep cutting boards clean, wash them with hot soapy water after each use, and then rinse and let air dry. Don’t use the same platter or utensils that held raw meat to serve the cooked product. When using a food thermometer always thoroughly wash it after each use with hot soapy water. Remember to keep pets, household cleaners, and other chemicals away from food and food preparatory stations. Keep refrigerators clean and sanitized; remove old food frequently. When eating out, eat at reputable restaurants and establishments. Avoid eating foods openly exposed in convenience stores like hotdogs, sausages, and taquitos – there are lots of germs floating around in those places.

Taking some time to “be food safe” could keep you and your co-workers or family from experiencing a very uncomfortable foodborne illness. Bon Appetit!

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Bloodborne Pathogens - Protecting Workers

Every year municipalities, just like any other business, must train their employees about bloodborne pathogens. The following information can assist you in keeping your employees from contracting a bloodborne illness.

Bloodborne pathogens are infectious micro-organisms in human blood that include, but are not limited to, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV. The can infect a healthy body through contact with blood and other body fluids, secretions, and excretions (except sweat). In many cases, contact with infected fluids happens via used needles or other contaminated sharp objects that have not been properly disposed of or properly cleaned and disinfected.

Exposure Control Plan

All organizations where employees could be exposed to blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) must follow the bloodborne pathogens standard. Employers are responsible for determining which jobs, tasks, and procedures involve an occupational exposure. According to OSHA standards, occupational exposure is a “reasonably anticipated skin, eye, mucous membrane, or parenteral contact with blood or OPIM that may result from performance of an employee’s duties.” If your workplace carries a risk of occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens, you are required to develop an exposure control plan to minimize or eliminate occupational exposures. Start by identifying all the hazards workers may be exposed to. This exposure determination needs to contain a list of jobs with potential exposure and list of procedures that could result in worker exposure. Based on this determination, you should design and implement adequate safety controls using training, providing PPE, and administrative or engineering controls.

Implementing Controls

Elimination of hazards is not feasible in some workplaces. In these situations, it is important to follow basic controls. These controls can include, but are not limited to, the following:

·         Use “universal precautions”; treat all blood or OPIMs as if they were infected.

·         Implement safe practice controls; update and redesign them as needed.

·         Practice safe decontamination; thoroughly wash and disinfect.

·         Provide personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks, and specialized clothing if needed.
Remember employers are responsible for repairing or replacing PPE when required.

·         Implement engineering controls such as sharps disposal containers or needleless systems.

·         Ensure that hepatitis B immunizations are available to all workers, that they have been properly
trained and understand how they could be exposed, that they know how to protect themselves from
exposure, and that they know what to do if they have potentially been exposed.

·         Use warning labels and signs on containers and in areas where contaminated materials may be
stored.

·         Keep and update worker medical and training records regularly.

·         Keep and update a sharps injury log.

Other Employer Responsibilities

After any exposure incident, arrange for a post-exposure medical evaluation and make it available to affected workers. Document the reasons for exposure and test the source individual (the person whose blood or body fluids contacted the worker) for hepatitis B or hepatitis C or HIV infections. Employers are also responsible for offering the exposed worker post-exposure prophylaxis and counseling.

The municipal exposure control plan must be reviewed and updated annually to reflect any workplace changes that might affect safe work procedures. Employers should also make changes to engineering and practice controls based on input from workers.

Workers must receive regular training that covers all aspects of the exposure control plan including who to report incidents to and how to decontaminate after a potential exposure. All new hires must be trained concerning how they could be exposed in their work environment and what to do if they think they have been exposed.

Although engineering controls are the primary method of reducing exposure, behavioral training also aims to achieve this goal by changing how workers perform tasks. When providing training, consider a program that deals with the human factors. This will increase employee self-awareness and help workers see how situations like fatigue and complacency may put them, their co-workers, or families at greater risk of contracting an illness from a bloodborne pathogen. Safety needs to be addressed from all possible angles to provide workers with the best protection available.

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Airborne Diseases

You can catch some diseases simply by breathing. These are called airborne diseases. Airborne diseases can spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes, laughs, or even talks, spewing nasal and throat secretions into the air in particles of moisture. These particles take flight and land on people or surfaces, contaminating them. When you breathe airborne organisms in, they take up residence inside you. You also can pick up viruses or bacteria when you touch an infected surface and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. Because these diseases travel in the air, they are hard to control.

Some of the airborne diseases contracted by millions of people each year are: The Common Cold, Influenza, Chickenpox, Mumps, Measles, Whooping Cough, Tuberculosis, and Diphtheria.

Treatment for Common Airborne Diseases

For most airborne diseases the best treatment is getting plenty of rest and fluids and letting the illness run its course. Some diseases like chickenpox have no targeted treatment, but medications and other supportive care can help relieve symptoms.

Some, such as flu, can be treated with antiviral drugs. Treatment for infants with whooping cough can include antibiotics, but hospitalization is often needed. There are drugs to treat and cure tuberculosis, although some strains of TB are drug resistant. Failure to complete a course of medication can lead to drug resistance and a return of the illness. If caught early enough diphtheria can be successfully treated with antitoxins and antibiotics.

With our world being so easily accessed today with air travel, airborne disease can potentially affect everyone in a brief period of time. Diseases are spread easily in close quarters such as airplanes, schools, malls, and church gatherings. Take precautions: get plenty of rest, exercise, keep your immune system up by using supplemental vitamins, and avoid large populated areas when there is a known outbreak of disease. If you become ill, take some time off from work so you don’t spread the illness.

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Insect Borne Illness

What are Insect Borne Illnesses?

Insect borne diseases are viral or bacterial illnesses contracted from insect (bug) bites. The most common insects that pass on disease are mosquitos, fleas, and ticks. Some common diseases known to be transmitted by insects are Zika virus, Yellow Fever, and Malaria from mosquitos, and Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from ticks (There are approximately 10 different diseases which can be contracted from a tick bite.)

Common Symptoms of Insect Borne Illnesses:

  • Fever 

  • Sore muscles    

  • Nausea    

  • Headache

  • Chills      

  • Skin rash          

  • Stomach pain

More serious symptoms might include:

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Swelling/closing of the throat     

  • Chest pain    

  • Vomiting

  • Swelling of lips, tongue, face    

  • Racing heartbeat        

  • Dizziness

How are Insect Borne Illnesses Diagnosed?

Your doctor can typically diagnose an insect borne illness with a physical exam, a review of symptoms, and checking recent travel destinations. Lab tests (blood and urine) can diagnose certain insect borne diseases.

How to Avoid or Prevent Insect-borne Illnesses

·         Stay out of tall grass and bushes

·         Dress in long pants and shirts and wear a hat; tuck pants legs into your boots or socks

·         Wear light colored clothing, which makes it easier to spot crawling insects

·         Use bug spray that contains at least 10% DEET

·         Examine your skin and scalp after being outside, checking for bugs or bites

·         Always shower using plenty of soap after being outdoors

Insect Borne Illness Treatment

As soon as you recognize a bite, clean it with soap and water. Pat it dry and apply rubbing alcohol to the bite. If bitten by a tick, remove the tick before cleaning the area. Use tweezers to slowly pull it off your skin. Be careful not to leave any part of the tick in/on your skin. Dispose of the tick. Wash your hands and the bite area with soap and water and then wipe with alcohol. Apply an over-the-counter antibiotic cream to the bite area.

If you have any of the symptoms listed above, see a doctor. If you start having flu-like symptoms 3-10 days after being bitten see a doctor for diagnosis.

Living with Insect Borne Illnesses

Some insect borne illnesses can cause long-term chronic symptoms that affect the quality of life. Lyme disease, for example, can leave you chronically tired and sore. Zika virus can be passed on to a baby and cause microcephaly and an intellectual disability.

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Municipalities Must Take GHS-HazCom Training Seriously

The final GHS (Global Harmonization System) deadline is now long past. OSHA’s alignment of the HazCom (Hazardous Communication Standard) to GHS has provided a wakeup call to millions of companies across the U.S. to do a better job with their HazCom programs, especially when it comes to training. Unfortunately, not all Oklahoma municipalities have embraced this new standard. HazCom violations remain the number 2 violation on OSHA’s top 10 list of violations.

This article provides four steps employers can take to ensure employees understand the chemical hazards present in their work environments and to comply with GHS updates to HazCom.

Step One: Build a Training Program Focused on Usefulness

While OSHA, and here in Oklahoma, the Department of Labor’s PEOSH division don’t specify how to do training, they do state that training must be effective. Employees must carry their learning into the workplace and be able to put it to use. HazCom has two key components: 1) providing employees with a basic understanding of the HazCom standard (OMAG works with many of our cities and towns to provide this understanding.); and 2) training employees on the specific hazards of the chemicals to which they are exposed and providing protection through administrative controls, engineering controls, and personal protective equipment (These are the responsibility of the employer and its departmental supervisors.)

In the past, HazCom with GHS focused on training workers to understand the new SDS (safety data sheets) and labeling formats accompanied with GHS adoption. However, many employers lacked a basic level of understanding about HazCom (municipalities included), making it difficult for them to comprehend and address the changes brought by the new GHS alignment. As a result, workers were never adequately trained on HazCom in the first place or had been trained so long ago that what they learned had been forgotten. It is critical that employers continue to emphasize basic HazCom training, which now includes GHS information to ensure employees are able to use the information in their day-to-day activities.

The second component of an effective HazCom training program focuses on the individual hazards employees face. Departmental supervisors must train their employees on the specific chemicals used and their hazards. The key here is to provide employees with a deeper understanding of the dangers and emergency situations they face, and counter them by following written policies and procedures.

Step Two: Deliver Training So Employees Can Understand It

When OSHA first published the HazCom Standard in 1983, it followed the concept of the employee’s “right to know” about the hazards to which they might be exposed. A primary driver for OSHA’s adoption of the GHS has been the desire to improve employee comprehension of critical chemical safety information.

With GHS, OSHA is indicating it’s not enough for workers to just know about the hazards; instead they have the “right to understand” those hazards and know what related safety precautions to take.

The pre-GHS employee “right to know” concept often translated into giving workers access to MSDSs and labels and making sure they were aware of the hazards that existed from chemicals in their work environment. This approach didn’t always translate to employees understanding the safety and health information being conveyed on the MSDS and labels. GHS adoption helped solve this issue by bringing harmonization and consistency to the structure of the safety data sheets (formerly MSDS, now SDS) and labels. Use of standardized hazard communication elements, such as pictograms, make it possible for workers to more easily understand the hazards associated with chemicals workers use or are around. This simplified approach to communicating hazard information makes it possible to protect workers of all backgrounds. For instance, pictograms make it easier for illiterate and non-English speaking employees to understand the nature of a product’s hazardous properties.

The “right to understand” concept compliments OSHA’s rule on employee HazCom training – that it must be presented in a manner all employees can comprehend and retain. When applied to HazCom training, this means that employees who work with or around hazardous chemicals must receive training in a language they can understand, even if the documents (SDSs and labels) are only required in English.

Step Three: Provide Easy Access to SDSs

A key aspect of HazCom training is to make sure employees know how to get direct access to Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) and other hazardous chemical information. Some employers are using electronic solutions to help employees retrieve information from their inventory of SDSs. If this is true with your municipality, it is incumbent on you to make sure employees are made aware of the system, how to access it, and how to use it. Without that access, in the event of an emergency, even an employee that has received adequate training on labels and SDSs will still be at risk should a chemical event occur that requires quick action. For that reason, many employers are taking advantage of technological advancements and using mobile solutions to put SDSs in the hands of their employees. The best Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) software solutions today leverage the cloud to make critical chemical safety information available anywhere, any time. One problem with using technology solutions, however, is many municipalities don’t have the financial resources to provide such innovative techniques. Therefore, keeping updated SDSs available to workers in a binder within the work environment of the workers may still be the best way to provide them with quick environmental, safety, and health information when a chemical event occurs. These binders can be kept in trucks, shops, and offices - wherever the employee has access to them.

Step Four: Keep It Consistent

While OSHA and OK DOL-PEOSH don’t require employee training to be performed in specific intervals of time, regular training (at least annually) is a best practice to help ensure your employees better retain HazCom with GHS information. Other instances for training may include newly hired employees, temporary employees, visiting contract workers, or when a new chemical is introduced to a department. This helps ensure that employees who might work with or around a hazardous chemical understand its potential hazards.

It is vitally important to view HazCom and GHS training as an ongoing obligation. Over my years of travel around the state performing inspections and trainings for OMAG shareholders (cities and towns), I have personally noted frequent inadequacies with regard to HazCom and GHS training and information resources. The safety of your employees must be a priority in your day-to-day operations for their sake, for your municipality’s sake, and for the health and welfare of the state of Oklahoma.

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Office Safety Tips

In municipal government, labor-intensive jobs in public works, law enforcement and emergency services, are the source of most work-related injuries. But, are you aware that employees who work in office settings are also at risk of suffering disabling injuries? The injuries may look different, but they still cause pain, cause expensive workers’ compensation claims, and reduce overall productivity. Office workers deserve a spotlight on how to stay safe and healthy at work.

Employees may feel safe in the comfort of their office, but that’s where the dangers are. Poor ergonomics and organization can lead to three common office injuries – repetitive use injuries, computer eye strains, and falls. Here’s what you need to know about these injuries and how you can avoid them to make the office a safe workspace.

Repetitive Stress Injuries

A Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI) or overuse injury is caused by repeating the same motion for extended periods and RSIs affect millions of workers every year. In an office setting, extended periods of sitting and computer work without proper ergonomics can cause strain on the back and upper extremities, wrists, elbows, and hands.

Employees who perform repetitive activities are at risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome, a common RSI. Carpal tunnel syndrome causes swelling in the wrist that puts pressure on the nerves and causes pain, tingling, and numbness. Also, prolonged sitting can lead to different posture problems, like strained neck and shoulders or lower back pain. While these may seem like small injuries, they can cause a lot of pain and make work difficult. As they get more severe over time, these RSIs can potentially require long-term physical therapy and rehabilitation.

The best way to avoid these injuries is by preventing them with ergonomic workstations. Ergonomics is the study of how people interact with their physical environment. You can maximize productivity and minimize injuries by building the physical environment around a person, or fitting a workspace to an employee, rather than forcing an assorted-sized workforce to all fit within the same dimensions.

For example, consider a 5-foot-tall employee using the same chair settings as a 6-foot-tall employee. The shorter worker could have tension in their back and thighs if their feet can’t rest comfortably on the ground, and the taller worker could strain their neck having to look down at the computer monitor. Different workers have different needs.

To get started on improving ergonomics, follow these guidelines:

·         Provide adjustable work stations that allow employees to alternate between seated and standing positions

·         When working at a computer, keep wrists in a neutral position, elbows by your side, shoulders back, and sit up straight

·         Keep regularly used items, like the telephone and calculator, within easy reach

·         Adjust your chair so your feet rest firmly on the floor with your knees bent at 90-degree angles

·         Position your computer monitor directly in front of your head, just at or slightly below eye level

Along with these ergonomic guidelines, encourage employees to take frequent breaks to stand, walk around, and stretch their hands and wrists.

Computer Eye Strain

With the average U.S. worker spending seven hours a day on the computer, not to mention personal time staring at phone screens, eye strain has become a common injury for office workers. A survey from the American Optometric Association reported that 58% of adults have experienced eye strain or vision problems as a direct result of too much screen time.

Symptoms of computer eye strain include headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, eye twitching, or even physical fatigue and increased number of work errors. Most office employees rely on computers to complete their work, so you can’t get rid of computers to fix this problem. However, there are several adjustments workers can make to reduce eye strain and improve productivity.

These adjustments include:

·         Cover windows or close the blinds to reduce excessively bright light coming from outside

·         Use fewer light bulbs or lower intensity bulbs to reduce excessive indoor brightness

·         Position computers to the side of a window rather than in front of or behind it

·         Adjust the brightness of the computer display to match the brightness of the surrounding workstation

·         Alter text size and contrast for comfort

Employees should also take breaks away from the computer to avoid eye fatigue. One common method encouraged by eye doctors is the “20-20-20 rule.” Every 20 minutes, workers should turn their gaze to an object that’s 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This rule relaxes the muscles inside the eye. A recent study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that these breaks not only significantly reduced eye strain, they also increased work productivity.

Slips, Trips, and Falls

According to the National Safety Council, slips and trips account for the greatest number of work-related injuries in offices. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) adds that office workers are two to 2.5 times more likely to suffer a disabling injury from a fall than non-office workers.

While falls are usually just accidents, they are preventable. Clear work areas, proper lighting, and promptly cleaned up messes can help prevent most workplace falls. The CDC states that the most common causes of office falls are:

·         Tripping over open drawers, electrical cords, loose carpeting, or objects in walkways

·         Reaching for something while seated in an unstable chair

·         Standing on a chair instead of a ladder

·         Slipping on wet floors

·         Not being able to see due to inadequate lighting

Employers can reduce the $70 billion spent annually on workers’ compensation and medical costs for falls by encouraging employees to follow some simple tips:

·         Don’t place objects in common walking paths

·         Close file and desk drawers when you finish using them

·         Get up to reach something rather than trying to reach from your chair

·         Secure electrical cords and loose carpeting

·         Clean up spills on the floor (even if you didn’t make the mess), or place caution signs over spills until they’re cleaned up

·         Use stepladders instead of chairs to reach items overhead

Although work-related injuries in an office setting can be severe, they’re also mostly preventable. So, start making your office a safer place by following these simple tips and educating your workforce.

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Preventing Falls

Falls continue to be the second leading cause of death to workers. To help reduce fall-related injuries and fatalities, OSHA advises employers to “plan, provide, and train” their workers who work at heights of 6 feet or more (bucket truck, water tower, utility vault, etc.)  These situations require a plan for safety and emergency retrieval and the proper equipment for performing work tasks at height. Workers need to be properly trained to understand the hazards, and how to control them through administrative controls, engineering controls, and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Plan – When planning a job that requires working from height, the employer is responsible for ensuring the work can and will be done safely. When planning for the budget, employers must include the cost involved for purchasing the proper safety equipment to perform elevated tasks. They must plan to have the necessary equipment available and used at the job site.

Provide – Employers must provide fall protection and related equipment (ladders, scaffolds, safety harnesses, etc.) for employees working 6 feet or more above a lower level. If workers use personal fall arrest systems for work in trees or bucket trucks, a harness for each worker who needs to tie off to an anchor must be provided. Each system must properly fit the worker and be inspected regularly. Purchase equipment from reputable vendors that provide hands-on training on their equipment.

Train – Every worker must be trained on the proper set up and safe use of their fall protection system and they must be deemed proficient by their supervisor before doing hazardous work at height.

When working with ladders, workers should know to maintain 3 points of contact (2 hands and 1 foot or 2 feet and 1 hand) on the ladder at all times. Keep ladders on a level surface, secure ladders by locking their metal braces, and avoid over-reaching when performing tasks outside the ladder edges. As for working on scaffolds, a worker must know how to safely set up the scaffold including how to set up guardrails and ensure stable footing can be maintained. The scaffold must be set up level. The scaffolding should be inspected by a supervisor before workers are allowed to use it.

For off or below ground work, the workers need to make sure their harness fits properly, straps are sufficiently backed up, and they are securely tied off or belayed at all times. Workers should be able to check that their anchor points are secure and make sure any openings are protected or covered.

Working at heights is a very serious situation - don’t under estimate the danger. Falls from heights are low in frequency but high in severity. This kind of accident could be catastrophic for a worker and your municipality.

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September 2018 Risk & Safety Newsletter

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