Why an Injury Prevention Program is Important to Implement at Your Worksite!
Whether someone is a desk worker, athlete, dancer, or even driver, they are at high risk of repetitive motion injury, which is among the most common injuries in the U.S.
While most repetitive motion injuries – resulting, as the name implies, from doing mechanical motion over and over again – are caused in the workplace, pretty much any repetitive actions in our everyday life can be responsible for the disorder.
What is a repetitive motion injury?
As mentioned above, repetitive motion injuries refer to a wide range of injuries caused by performing certain activities over and over again during a prolonged period of time and with a lack of rest (taking breaks).
The most common symptoms of repetitive motion injuries: numbness and tingling in the affected area;
Tenderness or pain
Abnormal pulsating sensation
Loss of sensation or loss of strength.
What causes repetitive strain injuries?
Overusing a particular muscle or group of muscles
Repeating certain movements that put your muscles, joints, or ligaments in an awkward position
Using vibrating equipment
Performing activities in cold temperatures
Holding the same posture for a prolonged period of time
Putting direct pressure on a particular muscle, joint, or ligament
Carrying heavy loads
Lack of rest
As a contributing factor – increased stress levels.
While many people confuse carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive motion injuries – making it seem as if the two terms are practically synonymous – there are other types of injury from repetitive motion to be aware of. Apart from carpal tunnel syndrome, the following conditions can be considered repetitive strain injuries (though it depends on your particular circumstances):
Cubital tunnel syndrome
De Quervain syndrome
Thoracic outlet syndrome
Rotator cuff syndrome
Golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis)
Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis)
Trigger finger (stenosing tenosynovitis)
Radial tunnel syndrome
All of the above-mentioned conditions can make it impossible for workers to perform their job duties over time. Given this factor and the fact that many repetitive strain injuries are acquired at work, if your worksite has a injury prevention program in place – it is able to eliminate symptoms before these injuries occur.
CIS onsite injury prevention program addresses all the above items. CIS onsite provides a proactive partnership with companies which entails boots on the ground, covering all shifts. So, no matter where your site is located CIS onsite can assistance you in reducing and preventing workplace injuries.
National Safety Council consultants identify what they see repeatedly when auditing worksites
The National Safety Council has a team of consultants who travel across the country – and the world – to visit worksites and conduct safety audits. But no matter where each team member is, chances are good that he or she will spot one or more of seven common safety hazards. Here, NSC consultants JoAnn Dankert, Namir George and Rachel Harrington identify for Safety+Health the workplace trouble spots they see over and over again.
Working at height
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Dankert, Harrington and George frequently spot hazards associated with working at height. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that falls to a lower level accounted for 14 percent of all fatalities in 2014, and OSHA standards related to scaffolding and ladders are regularly among the most frequently cited violations.
Dankert, an NSC senior consultant based in Arizona, said hazards associated with working at height can originate from a lack of understanding. Employers may not know they have to provide fall protection, or the fall protection gear may not be worn properly or not hooked up to anything. Some employers don’t even have a written fall protection procedure or process.
Employers need to identify all locations where fall protection is necessary – as well as where the engineered anchor points are – and train employees and regularly audit the fall protection program, she said.
Watch an interview with National Safety Council Senior Consultant JoAnn Dankert about common safety problems she finds on jobsites.
Some of those locations may be surprising. Dankert recently visited a manufacturing facility that was expanding and had added to its roof a new 12-foot-tall chiller next to three existing ones. But something was missing. The old equipment had proper fall protection, including swing gates and a railing for when maintenance work is needed, but the new chiller didn’t.
“The fall hazard was not about doing work and falling off the roof – it was the equipment on top of that roof,” Dankert said. “These are hidden places you don’t go to very often, and you just don’t think about it.”
Dankert cites this case as an example of the need for safety professionals to have a seat at the table when decisions on design or purchases are made. Their input, she said, can save employers time and money.
More advice: Buy the correct-sized gear for workers, and keep in mind that although some work environments may have anchor points readily available, other locations may need an engineer to install them. Remind employees to hook to the anchor point when working at height, and keep a close eye on how well personal protective equipment is holding up. Environments with sharp edges, chemicals or welding, for example, can weaken a harness. Regularly inspect gear, and remove damaged PPE from service.
“Fall protection is like other PPE – it’s not good forever and ever,” Dankert said.
In some situations, it may be beneficial to forgo using personal fall protection equipment and instead build a platform with standard railings and a swing gate in front of a fixed ladder. Although such a platform costs money, Dankert said, it may be less costly than creating a fall protection plan, buying the PPE, and training and re-training employees.
Clutter blocking fire exits, aisles and emergency exits is a housekeeping problem that George, who is based in the United Kingdom as NSC’s manager of international consulting services, sees often.
Another common problem? Over-stacking loads on racks in a warehouse that bring them too close to a sprinkler head, which can limit the sprinkler’s efficiency in an emergency. Clutter, leaks or standing water also can contribute to slips, trips and falls.
Workers shouldn’t wait for housekeeping or sanitation crews to take care of these issues, Dankert said. Instead, they should clean as they go. “Just because it’s a dirty process doesn’t mean you shouldn’t clean up spills,” she said.
If the clutter or spill requires specialized training to clean up, then employees need to alert their supervisor, who can send in the appropriate staff. Additionally, Dankert recommends setting aside a few minutes at the end of each shift, or on a Friday afternoon, to clean up before leaving for the day.
When it comes to storage, employers need to make sure appropriate areas are made available, notes Harrington, an NSC senior consultant based in Illinois. Harrington said she often sees electrical rooms used inappropriately for storage, with supplies blocking electrical installations.
Even if clearance between the stored supplies and the circuit breakers is appropriate, Harrington pointed out, employers need to consider situations that could arise in which someone would need easy access to that room.
“Think about an emergency where lights are out, something has gone wrong, and it’s full of chairs,” she said. “I wouldn’t recommend storing anything in an electrical room beyond what’s in the use of that room. I wouldn’t recommend it at all.”
Electrical – Extension cords
Blocked breakers aren’t the only electrical hazard NSC consultants frequently see. Many electrical risks are related to inappropriate use of extension cords.
Dankert often witnesses “daisy-chaining” – using multiple extension cords or power strips for a device. At one manufacturing facility Dankert visited, she saw as many as five extension cords chained together.
“It was almost like Christmas tree lights,” she said. “All you really saw were all these electrical cords everywhere.”
Because the employer is a developer of prototype equipment, the layout of the manufacturing floor was regularly being changed. And in most other aspects, the employer was conscientious about safety – the extension cords being used were new and heavy-gauge, and the facility was very clean.
“They were trying to do the right thing, but it also made me think it’s not really temporary,” Dankert said.
And that’s the point: Although extension cords can be useful for temporarily supplying power for certain operations, the key word is “temporarily.” When a cord is used for several weeks or months, Dankert said, OSHA doesn’t consider the use temporary. This opens the door for a violation.
Beyond that, extension cords lying on the ground for extended periods of time are a trip hazard. They also can be subject to traffic abuse if run over by forklifts or feet, which can wear down insulation and create shock hazards. When cords are daisy-chained, they can easily overdraw electricity from the circuits, causing the wires to heat up and potentially result in a fire.
Employers should assess whether extension cords are truly being used for temporary measures – perhaps to power a fan on an especially hot day. In such an event, Dankert said, the cord should be gathered up at the end of the shift and stored. She recommends establishing a system to periodically inspect extension cords, and training employees on that system to ensure the cords stay in good working condition and worn-out cords are placed out of service.
Workers need to ensure they’re using the right extension cord for the job. Typically, a more expensive cord has a heavier gauge, which allows it to take more power without getting hot. The same applies for using a single power strip to plug in several different devices – the power strip may not be rated for the combined wattage needed for all the high-draw appliances being plugged in.
If the extension cords are not being used for a temporary fix, employers should consider bringing in an electrician to drop in a line and outlet.
What’s a leading cause of forklift-related hazards in the workplace? In George’s experience, it’s when workers feel compelled to work quickly.
“What dictates their activity is production,” he said. “They’re all under pressure, and when you’re under pressure, they start taking shortcuts.”
Shortcuts include driving with too large of a load or driving distracted. The end result may be hitting a rack, damaging a wall or product, or even injuring a co-worker.
How employers react to these occurrences is critical, but their responses often miss the mark, NSC consultants say. George said a common attitude after an incident is to blame the individual and instill discipline. The forklift driver is re-trained, re-tested and then put back into the system. But employers fail to identify the root cause, which often is not enough staff or trucks to manage the current workload.
Compounding these problems is a lack of maintenance and daily checks of trucks, and failing to segregate vehicles from pedestrians, George said. Trucks should be regularly inspected to ensure they are in proper working order, and employers should create designated walkways.
Proper lockout/tagout procedures can help prevent serious injuries, but only if those procedures are followed.
“A lot of organizations, they’ve got the best procedures in place, but it’s the implementation of the procedures that fails,” George said.
One employee may go home for the day with his lock on, and the next worker on duty cuts the lock.
Workers may simply use a label on older equipment for which secure lockout is more difficult.
Instead of installing a chain to lock a valve in place, a wire that can easily be cut may be used.
Even if all lockout/tagout steps are followed, faulty equipment can still lead to failures. George recalled a case in which an electrician doing rewiring work was shocked. The equipment was locked out, but the instruments he was using to check the system were tampered with and failed to read that the system was live and not isolated. The worker touched a live cable, causing a third-degree burn.
Violation of lockout/tagout procedures often boils down to three reasons:
A rush to finish the work
Being unfamiliar with the equipment
Employers need to train employees on lockout/tagout and ensure they’re qualified to carry out the procedures, George stressed.
Chemicals can be expensive, and workers in some industries may never know when they’ll need to use a certain chemical again in the future. But according to Harrington, this kind of thinking can lead to serious hazards.
“Before you know it, you have all these chemicals no one wants or needs,” she said. “There’ll be literally hundreds of chemicals on the shelves.”
She added that although it may be easy to overlook a small, 5-gram bottle, those 5 grams can become unstable over time. For example, after a year or so, ether can degrade into explosive peroxide.
When an organization purchases and uses chemicals, it needs to have a control system, Harrington said. It needs to know what the chemicals are for and why they were ordered.
OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard requires facilities to keep an inventory of all products. Mark down the chemical’s expiration date, and use the chemical by that date or dispose of it properly. This is more than just a safety issue, Harrington said – stockpiling a huge cache of unwanted chemicals can be illegal. It also can be very expensive to dispose of large quantities of expired chemicals.
Another potential hazard is transferring chemicals from one container to another. Even if employees feel comfortable around the chemicals and have worked with them for years, the containers must be labeled as required under the hazcom standard.
Confined spaces can present a number of hazards. George said many tragedies involving confined spaces have occurred because an employer didn’t issue a permit or failed to carry out a risk assessment.
In one scenario George encountered, a confined space’s hazardous atmosphere wasn’t assessed properly because the equipment being used was out of date. A fire broke out.
“I’ve seen people go inside drains without a permit, and didn’t even know it was a confined space,” he said. “Someone’s gone inside to pick up something and he collapses because the standby person was distracted.”
If the risk assessment and permit process are done correctly, and all steps are followed, employers won’t have a problem, George said. “Everything is all planned,” he added. “If you don’t plan it correctly, you plan for a disaster.”
Fall is a wonderful time of year, but it does have its share of hazards. Read our safety tips to be prepared this season.
Fall is a wonderful time of year. The leaves are changing, the kids are back to school, there’s football to watch, apples to pick (and eat!), pumpkins to carve, and the weather is especially pleasant — lower humidity, fewer bugs, and better sleeping temperatures. What’s not to love?
But fall is not without its share of hazards. Here are some tips to be prepared for whatever weather challenges may come your way this season:
Floodwaters In short, never drive through floodwaters! Fall can often times bring with it rainy weather, and heavy rains can be a common occurrence as September and October are still part of hurricane season. So if you encounter fast moving water or a flooded roadway as you are driving or walking, it’s best to turn around and find another route. Abide by the “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” adage. You do not know the conditions under the water. All it takes is 6 inches of moving water to make you fall. And keep children and pets from playing in floodwater.
Leaf Hazards Leaves, while pretty, can pose hazards for motorists. Fallen leaves can gather on roadways and when they become wet, they can create very slick conditions. Add freezing temperatures to the mix and your vehicle will have zero tracking, similar to driving on an icy road. In addition, leaves can cover important road markings (double yellow lines, for example) or deep pot holes. So it’s important to slow down when driving on a leaf-covered roadway. And always give yourself plenty of room between you and the cars around you in case anyone has to stop short.
Children often play in leaf piles so be alert! Never drive through a pile of leaves.
Many “leaf peepers” are out on the roadways and many can be distracted by foliage vistas. Be alert to what other motorists are doing.
Keep your windshield free of leaves so as to not obstruct your view. And if you see dried leaves peeking out from under the hood of your car, take a moment to pop it and clear them away before you take your trip as they can obstruct ventilation holes and overheat your vehicle.
Reduced Visibility With the days getting shorter, visibility when driving in the fall can be a challenge. Many people walk along the side of the road at dusk with dogs, on horses or riding bicycles, and they can be difficult to see. School is also in session so kids are out playing. Mornings tend to be foggy. Additionally, fall is a time when wildlife is more active and on the move. Slow down when driving, especially on curvy or narrow roads where visibility around corners is difficult, and pay attention to postings for animal crossings, and obey school zone speed limits.
Weather Changes Fall foliage hikes are fabulous. If you take a hike, be prepared for weather changes as you increase elevation. It may be sunny at the base of the mountain but it could be cold and rainy or even snowy at the summit. Dress in layers, and bring a wind breaker or waterproof shell, plenty of water, and never hike alone.
Water Safety Many people like to take fall boat rides to see peak foliage. Even if things seem calm on the water, everyone on board should wear a life jacket. Being submerged in water of any temperature for any length of time can cause hypothermia and even the strongest swimmer can be weakened.
Here are a few more maintenance items to do this fall for safety:
Get your furnace serviced. Before winter arrives, it’s a good idea to call a professional to do your annual furnace servicing now. Your furnace is by far the most important appliance in your home. Have the filters cleaned or replaced. Check to see if you have an annual service contract, which will greatly bring down costs on this important maintenance step.
Fire Safety. When we “fall back” is the time when everyone should replace the batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. It’s also a good idea to have a working fire extinguisher in the house, and everyone who lives there should be familiar with how it works. Hold a Fire Safety Meeting with family members and go over the steps. Do not do any outdoor burning when fire dangers are high. Flying embers can travel and start fires. Never leave candles unattended, especially in Jack-O-Lanterns or on table centerpieces.
Fireplaces. Get your chimney inspected every fall. Hire a chimney sweep to clean out your chimney of debris, nests, etc. before your light your first fire. Use the fireplace screens to protect from flying sparks and embers. Never pour lighter fluid, kerosene or gasoline on a fireplace, and never leave a fireplace unattended.