Provide tribal members with these safety tips during National Safety Month
National Safety Month, observed every June, focuses on reducing leading causes of injury and death at work, on roads, and in our homes and communities. This year’s theme is No 1 gets hurt.
Injuries are the leading cause of death for Americans ages 1 to 40. The good news? Everyone can get involved to help prevent injuries.
During National Safety Month, we’re providing sovereign nations with tools to help reduce the risk of injuries. This June, we encourage you to learn more about important safety issues like preventing poisonings, transportation safety, and slips, trips, and falls.
- Poisonings: Nine out of 10 poisonings happen right at home. You can be poisoned by many things, like cleaning products or another person’s medicine.
- Transportation safety: Doing other activities while driving – like texting or eating – distracts you and increases your chance of crashing. Almost 1 in 6 crashes (15%) where someone is injured involves distracted driving.
- Slips, trips, and falls: One in 4 older adults falls each year. Many falls lead to broken bones or a head injuries.
It’s easy in your day-to-day business to overlook these important safety issue in lieu of more pressing matters. But National Safety Month is a good time for tribal leaders and employers to share safety tips with employees, taking extra time to discuss the importance of workplace safety. You can download safety materials from the National Safety Council (NSC), which include guidelines while at home, work or driving.
Workplace settings vary widely in size, location, design, work processes, workplace culture and resources. Workers themselves are different in terms of age, gender, training, education, cultural background, health practices, and access to preventive health care. This translates to great diversity in the safety and health risks for each tribe:
- Major changes are occurring in the way work is organized. Longer hours, compressed work weeks, shift work, reduced job security, and part-time and temporary work are realities of the modern workplace. These are increasingly affecting the health and lives of workers.
- Workers spend a quarter of their lifetime -up to half of their waking lives – at work or commuting. Despite improvements in occupational safety and health over the last several decades, workers continue to suffer work-related deaths, injuries, and illnesses.
- New chemicals, materials, processes and equipment are being developed at an ever-accelerating pace, posing emerging risks to occupational health.
Recently OSHA revealed their top violations for 2017. (While tribes are not under OSHA governance, it pays to review their findings and compare them to your own endeavors.) Their top violations were
- Lack of fall protection and training (see our post on Tribal workplace safety: give the boot to slips, trips and falls)
- Inadequate hazard communication
- Respiratory protection (see our post on Confined space safety tips for tribal employees)
- Lockout/tagout (see our post on How lockout/tagout safety can prevent accidents)
- Ladders (see our post on 5 tools to prevent tribal workplace fall hazards)
- Powered industrial trucks
- Machine guarding
- Electrical wiring methods
NSC provides training and kits for making your workplace a safer environment for your employees, from fatigue and prescription drugs to workplace violence, safe driving, slips/trips/falls and more.
Those of us who work in an office setting assume that workplace safety tips are for others who work with heavy machinery and equipment, on heights or underground, and involve strenuous labor.
While it’s true, statistically speaking, that offices are safer workplaces, there are a few pitfalls that should be highlighted and corrected. According to this article on office safety tips by National Safety Council (NSC), falls are the most common source of office injury, followed by being struck by or against objects, and then ergonomic injuries. Ways to avoid office injuries include
- Keep offices and walkways clutter-free, eliminating trip hazards.
- Avoid stretching electrical cords across walkways or under rugs; ensure cords are properly secured and covered.
- Instruct employees never to stand on desk chairs, especially rolling ones, to reach higher objects. Instead, keep a step ladder nearby.
- Use skid-free flooring. Particularly during wet weather, floors can be slippery. Add gripping rugs at entranceways.
- Instruct employees to only open one filing cabinet drawer at a time, to prevent the furniture from tilting over or an open drawer from tripping a passerby.
- Employees should also never stack heavy boxes on top of each other, as they can tip over. Instead, use shelving to stack boxes.
- If space heaters are allowed, verify they’re approved for commercial use and include a switch that automatically shuts off the heater if it’s tipped over. Keep combustibles away.
- Never block fire sprinklers or escape routes with boxes or furniture.
One emerging yet serious risk is walking with eyes glued to a smart phone, unaware of surroundings. A study published in the Journal of Safety Research found that, during a 10-year period, distracted walking was responsible for more than 10,000 series injuries. Common sense tells us not to use our cell phones while walking, yet we all do. Stress to employees the importance of stepping aside to send that text or email, to prevent injury. Ironically, more than half of distracted walking incidents happen at home. If your tribal business includes drivers, train them to watch out for distracted pedestrians, particularly in school zones.
Tips for communicating safety to your workers
- Train your workers on a continual basis. Always emphasize safety in formal meetings and informal conversations.
- Management should set a clear example of what safety means in your organization, not only emphasizing safety in all training but also in how they conduct themselves every day.
- Your employees look to them as role models, setting the safety tone for the workplace.
- Ask employees for feedback on how to make their workplace safer, and follow through on their advice.
- Create a Safety Team who champions safety around your workplace.
- Reward safe behavior and set clear consequences for unsafe acts.
You can download additional National Safety Month materials here.