Tag: Safety

Top Safety Measures to Avoid Heat Illness in the Workforce

As an employer, you understand the importance of providing a safe environment for your employee’s well-being. According to OSHA, employers are required to provide a safe workplace void of any potential hazards that can cause harm to employees. 

This includes preventing employees from overheating and causing heat illness.    

Employee Training

Being in the midst of the summer months, heat illness is a real risk, and as an employer, you should ensure your employees are educated on the symptoms of heat illness as well as how their health and activities can cause or prevent overheating.  

How to Recognize the Symptoms

There are different types of heat illnesses and symptoms. An uncomfortable and painful heat rash can cause severe itching. Heat Cramps and heat exhaustion occur with too much perspiration; the loss of body salt and water causes severe muscle cramps or spasms in the back, stomach, arms and legs. With heat exhaustion, an individual will have cool or pale skin, nausea, headache, weakness, vomiting and a fast pulse. 

Probably the most dangerous heat illness is heatstroke. A heat stroke causes: 

  • High body temperature
  • Sweat stops
  • Red, dry skin
  • Rapid breathing and pulse
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures 
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness 

Employees can take the right steps to treat heat illness when they recognize the symptoms and severity of what it can cause.    

How to Identify Personal Risk Factors

Educating employees on personal risk factors can help them understand their limitations as well as how to take precautionary measures when working in hot workplace environments. 

It’s important to note some health factors, like age or pre-existing medical conditions, really can’t be changed. Medical history can cause employees to be less tolerant to heat including: 

  • Short-term disorders and minor illnesses
  • Chronic skin disorders
  • Previous heatstroke

But, some factors are choices. As an example, the use of alcohol or drugs or taking prescription medication can affect an employee’s tolerance to heat. Being in good health is important in combating heat illnesses. Cornerstone Insurance Group works with employers to help educate employees on avoiding heat illness.

How to Acclimate & Hydrate

People respond to heat differently. Acclimating to the heat is important. According to OSHA, adjusting to heat usually takes five to seven days, but it can take a few weeks. Employers should train employees on how to acclimate as well as how to stay properly hydrated.  

Your employees should be aware of what heat illness looks like and how your worksite procedures address it.

How to Treat Heat Illness Symptoms

Educate your employees on what to do if one of their peers is showing signs of heat illness. If heat illness is suspected, employees should act quickly to get the individual out of the sun and provide cool water or an electrolyte-replacement beverage.  

When it comes to the more serious heat-induced illnesses, it’s important employees know how to seek medical attention immediately and try to cool the individual with cold water, compresses, ice and ice packs, or by fanning them. If an employee has heatstroke, an ambulance should be called quickly; heatstroke requires emergency treatment.

Proactive Measures

Ultimately, the best way to prevent heat illness from occurring in a workplace environment is to identify the risks and be proactive. 

Conduct a Heat Assessment

Heat illness assessments evaluate a wide range of risk factors including:

  • Workplace temperature
  • Humidity
  • Heat radiation 
  • Air movement
  • Employee workload
  • Clothing 
  • Acclimatization. 

Cornerstone Insurance Group can help employers with a Heat Illness Assessment Checklist as part of our risk management program. Even if your employees have to work in a heated environment, there are still steps you can take to limit the risk of heat illness. 

Schedule

Scheduling the most difficult or physically taxing jobs for the coolest part of the day and allowing employees to work more slowly during the hottest periods of the day help reduce the risk of heat illness. Schedule routine maintenance or tasks during cooler seasons. For indoor work, these routine tasks can be completed when hot operations are shut down.

Supervise

Supervising your employees in high-risk environments will allow you to oversee and manage work and rest cycles. Managers should monitor workers closely or require work to be done in pairs or groups. Instill a buddy system to help spot signs of heat illnesses and try to reduce activity levels during the peak periods of potential risk and be ready with the appropriate treatment.

Employees need to be able to recognize, treat and practice safe ways to prevent heat illness from the onset. The best way you can protect your employees from heat illness is by establishing a proactive plan to create a safe work environment

Do you have a plan and procedures in place to protect and prepare your employees to combat heat illness and reduce potential long-term health risks? 

Cornerstone Insurance Group is your workplace safety and risk management partner. We care about the well-being of your employees and your business. We can help you assess and address any potential risks for heat illness in your workplace.   

Contact Cornerstone Insurance Group today for more tools and resources to ensure the health and safety of your workforce.

What We Can Learn From the 10 Most Cited OSHA Standards for 2020

Workplace safety will always be a trending and important topic, but many companies fall short of achieving a hazard-free workplace. Each year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) releases its 10 most frequently cited standards from the year before. 

At Cornerstone Insurance Group, our loss control team wants to keep clients informed on how to maintain the safest and most efficient workplace possible. 

Take a look at what your company can learn from these common OSHA citations.

1. Fall Protection – General Requirements

Falls are the most common causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths. In 2020, there were 5,424 violations in this category. It’s imperative that your workplace is set up to prevent employees from falling off of overhead platforms, elevated workstations or into holes in the floor and walls. 

Make sure you review OSHA’s guidelines on fall protection to know the specific requirements your company must follow.  

2. Hazard Communication

With 3,199 violations, hazard communication — which looks at chemical safety — is an often-cited category for OSHA. The Hazard Communication Standard outlines how businesses must disseminate chemical safety-related information to its employees.

Read OSHA’s hazard communication standard to make sure your workplace is compliant.

3. Respiratory Protection

There are millions of workers in the U.S. who are required to wear respirators at work to protect themselves from harmful dust, smoke, vapors and other respiratory hazards. However, when employers fail to provide their employees with sufficient respirator equipment, they’ll receive a citation. This category increased in ranking from 5 to 3 from 2019 to 2020, with 2,649 violations last year.

Take a look at OSHA’s respiratory protection page for resources such as standards and training videos.

4. Scaffolding

With an estimated 65 percent of construction workers utilizing scaffolding, it’s vital that companies protect their employees from injuries and deaths. There were 2,538 scaffolding violations in 2020. Injuries often occur when the structure’s support gives way or an employee loses their footing. The most common causes of accidents involving scaffolds involve the planking or support giving way, or the employee slipping or being struck by a falling object

Consult with OSHA’s scaffolding standards to check that your worksites meet these requirements. 

5. Ladders

Working on or around ladders presents many potential hazards for employees. While in the top 10 in 2019, this citation climbed to the top 5 last year. There were 2,129 violations in this category. 

If your workplace requires the use of ladders, it’s vital that they are properly inspected, set up and used as intended. You can find guidelines under OSHA’s ladder safety requirements.

6. Lockout/Tagout

Lockout/tagout is commonly known as the control of hazardous energy. Energy sources may include electrical, mechanical, pneumatic, hydraulic, chemical and even gravity. While servicing and maintaining machines and equipment, the unexpected startup of stored energy can be dangerous to workers. There were 2,065 total violations in 2020.

Review OSHA’s guidance on proper lockout/tagout practices.

7. Powered Industrial Trucks

Commonly called forklifts or lift trucks, powered industrial trucks are used in many industries to move, raise and lower materials. There are many hazards associated with these trucks, and in 2020 there were 1,932 total violations related to their operation.

Take a look at what your workplace needs to do to adhere to OSHA’s powered industrial trucks standards.

8. Fall Protection – Training Requirements

In addition to the general requirements for fall protection in the workplace, OSHA also sets guidelines for employers to provide a training program for employees who are at risk. In 2020, there were 1,621 total violations of this safety category.

Get familiar with OSHA’s fall protection training program standards if it’s relevant to your business.

9. Personal Protective and Life Saving Equipment – Eye and Face Protection

Last year, there were 1,369 violations that could have been prevented with proper eye and face protective equipment. Workplaces that are frequently exposed to chemical, environmental, mechanical or radiological hazards should offer employees the right eye and face equipment.

Take a look at OSHA’s eye and face protection standards for resources to stay compliant.

10. Machine Guarding

Does your workplace rely on machinery to get tasks done? If so, your employees are at a higher risk of workplace injuries related to the point-of-operation and moving machine parts. There were 1,313 total violations of this safety standard in 2020. 

Learn how to control and minimize hazards with OSHA’s machine guarding resources.


Are you unsure if your workplace’s safety practices are meeting OSHA’s standards? Cornerstone’s loss control services offer expertise related to:

  • Safety program GAP analysis and benchmarking
  • Safety training for employees and leadership
  • OSHA compliance assistance
  • Workplace safety audits
  • … and more.

Let our specialists help your company provide a safe and effective work environment for your employees. Contact Cornerstone today.

Top Cited OSHA Violations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) releases a list each year of the most frequently cited violations. Knowledge of these violations can assist you in identifying and correcting similar risks in your company.

In November 2015, Congress enacted legislation requiring federal agencies to adjust their civil penalties to account for inflation. OSHA citation fees increased seven-fold in 2016 and will continue to go up with annual inflationary adjustments. The increase from 2019 to 2020 was 1.8%.

If you assess your safety program with an emphasis on correcting these commonly cited hazards, and you will be safer and save money in penalty fees!

Here are a few tips for mitigating some of the most frequently cited hazards associated with 3 of OSHA’s Top 10 citations. For the complete list, please watch my webinar presentation.

Fall Protection

Falls continue to be the leading cause of death in the construction industry accounting for over 33% of fatalities. Almost two-thirds of fall accidents are from roofs, ladders, and scaffolds.

The construction industry is a unique place to work, with job site conditions changing from day-to-day or even hour-to-hour. Fall exposures are frequent and varied. This safety challenge can be met with success if we pay attention to OSHA’s requirements under the “Fall Protection Standard (1926 Subpart M)”, “Scaffolds (1926 Subpart L),” and “Stairways and Ladders (1926 Subpart X)”.

Additional information and resources for Fall Protection can be found here:

https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/fallprotection/

Eye and Face Protection

Conduct a hazard assessment and identify those work tasks that require eye and face protection to guard employees from hazards like flying particles, chemicals, or optical radiation. Your assessment must include evaluation of exposures to both the employee performing the task or job, as well as other employees that might be working in the same area. These assessments will help you choose the correct eye and/or face protection to help prevent eye and face injuries. Keep in mind, normal prescription eyewear does not provide protection from impact or penetration hazards. To provide appropriate protection, prescription eyewear must be manufactured per the requirements of the “American National Standards Institute, ANSI Z87.1”. Otherwise, you could provide “wear-over” type eye protection.

Eye and face protection requirements are addressed in OSHA’s Construction Industry under the “Personal Protective and Lifesaving Equipment Standard, 1926 Subpart E“.

Hazard Communication

The Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) helps employers classify and identify chemical hazards and controls for safe use. It’s basically chemical safety in the workplace. Employers need to ensure that their employees understand the hazards presented by the chemicals they’re using, AND most importantly, what measures must be taken to prevent injury while using these chemicals.

Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for each chemical must be readily available to all employees and updated as needed. SDS contain important information from the manufacturer regarding the chemical hazards and safeguards.

Watch for improperly labeled or unlabeled containers. Accurate and compliant labeling will contain the following information:

  • The product identifier, i.e. the name of the chemical
  • The manufacturers’ name and address
  • A “Signal Word” to quickly ascertain the level of hazard, either “Danger” or “Warning.”
  • A “Hazard Statement” that describes the nature of the hazard(s), e.g. “causes serious eye damage”
  • A “Precautionary Statement(s)”, e.g. “wear appropriate eye protection”
  • And a “Hazard Information” pictogram(s)

Here is a great resource for employers to ensure compliance with “OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard.”

Hazard identification and control are key components of a successful safety program.  Taking a closer look at OSHA’ s annual list of their Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Violations and appropriate measures to avoid them will help you in your ongoing safety efforts.  For more information please click the links below to watch the webinar or download the slide presentation.

OSHA’s Top Ten Cited Violations of 2019 – Webinar

Webinar Slide Presentation

Firework and 4th of July Safety

I am sure you don’t need to be told how dangerous fireworks are. As we approach the 4th of July weekend, many of us are planning to include fireworks at our BBQ’s and family get-togethers. Since there are inherent dangers using fireworks let’s review some safety tips to keep you and those around you safe this 4th of July!

Be Aware of the Laws in Your Area

Before you start planning your fireworks block party, you should check your local municipality’s laws on fireworks. St. Louis city, county and Illinois have outright bans on the use of fireworks. Violators can face a $500.00 minimum fine or jail time for breaking these laws. Missouri statutes also detail that no person under the age of 17 should be in possession, handle, or ignite any fireworks.

Check Your Shopping List

The first thing to consider is the size of the fireworks you are purchasing. If you live in a residential area, it’s best to stick to smaller fireworks and fountains. Talk with the experts at the place of purchase and be conservative in the size and weight of each firework. The number of grams you buy determines the power of the explosion. Also, consider doing a ground show rather than launching explosives into the air, With a denser population, the risk of the fireworks hitting power lines, houses, trees or even people is higher.

Be Prepared for Safety

You’ve checked your local legislation and have chosen appropriate fireworks for your location — What’s next?  Be prepared in case things go awry! Fireworks are known for their unpredictable nature which increases the risk of misfires and explosions. Have a fire extinguisher and running water readily available in case a mishap occurs. Fireworks start an average of 18,000 fires each year. Most accidents and injuries occur when inexperienced individuals ignite them or the fireworks are too large for them to safely deploy.

Protect Yourself

Many fireworks, when discharged, produce sounds at 150-170 decibels. Hearing damage can occur at only 110 decibels. Some of these effects may only last 24-48 hours, however it’s common to have lasting hearing damage or permanent tinnitus caused by the excessive levels of sound that fireworks produce. Ear protection is always recommended whenever you will be near a firework display especially for young children. To be safe, adults need to be at least 50-65 feet away from the blast, and children need a distance of at least 150 feet away.

Remember even sparklers can be dangerous! These seemingly innocent fireworks burn at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and account for 25% of the emergency room visits due to firework mishaps! Remember that before you hand them to children this 4th of July!

Drink After the Show, Please!

Another factor that causes higher volume of patients in the ER each year, are individuals who have gotten injured using fireworks while impaired. Using fireworks responsibly also means abstaining from alcohol before taking part in setting off fireworks.

Quick Tips and Facts

  • Never hold lit fireworks in your hands
  • Always have water or a fire extinguisher nearby
  • Do not use fireworks while impaired
  • Never try to relight a dud or un-exploded firework
  • Spent fireworks should be soaked in water for several hours before discarding
  • Never try to light more than one firework at a time

For more information on firework safety, take a look at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission‘s site. Have a great 4th of July weekend and be safe!

Returning to Work Post COVID-19

As more and more states begin to loosen their stay at home restrictions, the question many business owners have right now is, “When can we get our employees back to work, and how do we do so, safely?” Many companies were able to transition to a remote working environment and subsequently have seen their employees really step up to the plate and become very productive working from home. As a result, numerous businesses are making the decision to allow their employees to continue to work from home even as regulations begin to allow a return to work. St. Louis County specifically stated that if a business has been able to efficiently operate remotely, they should consider allowing employees to continue to work from home for a little longer.

Getting Back on the Job

However, not all businesses can operate remotely and may be eager to get their employees back to work as soon as possible. First and foremost, those businesses must follow the protocol outlined in the applicable reopening guidelines as directed by their states or counties. This could include limited staff or patrons in the building, or enhanced cleaning and employee health screenings. In order to effectively follow these guidelines, employers may choose to allow employees back in waves, or stagger office hours, thus, limiting the exposure each employee has to other coworkers. This may be a great solution for the manufacturing industry where employees work closely to one another.

Safety and Sanitization

Not only may enhanced sanitization be required, it can also help ease employee’s minds when returning. Sanitizing shared or frequently used work surfaces multiple times per day will help reduce potential exposure to the virus. We recommend providing access to hand sanitizer or hand washing stations for employees. Many companies are requiring all employees who return to work, wear masks and/or gloves to help protect themselves. Though it is not a requirement, it’s recommended that if the organization is requiring employees to wear masks and gloves, those should be supplied by the company. Furthermore, management should also consider putting new policies in place for all employees returning to work, so staff is aware of these expectations and mandates prior to returning to work.

Health Screenings and Considerations

As businesses reopen, they may be required to perform daily health screenings under applicable legislation, or they may choose to do so in an effort to protect staff. These screenings can include daily health questions to confirm the employee is not exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19 and has not been around anyone with those symptoms. It could also include taking the temperatures of staff or visitors. This may cause an issue with privacy concerns, so employers should take great caution with those administering these tests and protecting the data. Employers do have the right to refuse work to anyone who is sick with COVID-19-like symptoms.

Adjustment Period

The environment employees are returning to may look very different from the environment they left a few months ago. The dynamic in the office will be a little foreign and helping employees get back into the swing of things and adjusting to the changes, is important. Reminding and enforcing guidelines on sanitization, masks, social distancing, and health screenings can help ease concerns of employees apprehensive of returning. However, there may be employees who are simply too scared to return, and these situations should be handled carefully. Overall, employers should strive to provide peace of mind to know staff and remind them the primary concern is employee safety.

As we continue to navigate this uncharted territory as a society, we will start to learn more about what works best and create new best practices for our businesses. Below are some helpful links from the CDC and OSHA that will help you make informed decisions on how to proceed with safely opening your businesses and getting back to work. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

https://www.osha.gov/pls/publications/publication.html#c19
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-small-business.html
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/general-business-faq.html
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/reopen-guidance.html