Verbal Communication

Every single day when we are around other people, we are communicating something to them regardless if we actually speak to them. The way we look at people, what we wear, our facial expressions, and our body language are just a few ways we communicate with others outside of spoken word. It is important to be aware of what message we are sending to those around us and how it is affecting them or the work you are completing.

Non Verbal and Verbal Communication

Most people would guess that verbal communication makes up the majority of communication. Studies show however that the majority of communication is actually nonverbal. This nonverbal communication is linked to actual words we say. The Non Verbal Group states, “Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, conducted several studies on nonverbal communication. He found that 7% of any message is conveyed through words, 38% through certain vocal elements, and 55% through nonverbal elements (facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc).”  While this statement makes the claim that we overwhelmingly communicate non verbally, much of the communication is delivered through how we talk not so much as to what we say. When is the last time you have given thought to the link between how you communicate and the effect it has on the people around you?

ToastmastersWhy We Need to Be Aware of How We Communicate

Everyone has worked with someone who is consistently negative and is hard to approach about anything. Often times, most people do not want to approach these individuals or communicate with them due to how they communicate verbally and nonverbally. When an individual snaps back or approaches communication with others in a negative manner it is difficult to get any message across. Going back to the statistic about how communication is more about how we say something and less about what we actually say, everyone should be aware of how they are coming across to others.

When we pay no mind to how we communicate with each other, messages are lost or not conveyed at all. At work, communication is vital is being able to successfully work safely and efficiently. When everyone feels comfortable being able to approach each other it creates a healthier working environment. Effective and open communication creates a working environment that can lead to individuals feeling comfortable stopping work when needed, more hazards addressed, higher morale, less stress, and better cohesiveness between work groups.

CHAINSAW Safety Talk

Chainsaws are inherently dangerous tools. They are proven to be efficient in cutting down trees so it is no surprise that they can cause serious injury to flesh and bones in quick fashion. Each year there are over 30,000 injuries in chainsaw-related incidents in the United States. Many of these injuries occur at home, however there are many workers who are injured on the job using chainsaws. Most of the hazards can be mitigated through proper training, proper use, and wearing the correct PPE.

Chainsaw Injury Statistics

  • Most injuries from chainsaw use are due to “kickback”. Kickback occurs when the tip of the chainsaw hits a hard object such as a knot in the wood and kicks back towards the person operating it.
  • 36% percent of chainsaw injuries affect the legs and knees.
  • The average chainsaw injury requires 110 stitches according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.
  • In 2012, according to OSHA, 243 workers died in tree trimming activities.

Chainsaw Safe Work PracticesChainsaw Safety

  • Read the entire operation manual before using any chainsaw. Always operate within the manufacturer’s guidelines.
  • Do not alter any guards on the chainsaw. Also do not alter any safety features such as a lock-out or “dead man” switch. These switches will prevent the chainsaw from engaging accidently or will shut the chainsaw off if pressure is not applied on the switch.
  • Wear the correct PPE for using a chainsaw. Correct PPE includes: Protective chaps, hardhat, face shield, gloves, earplugs, and protective toe boots. While it may be an expensive investment, correct PPE will be far cheaper than a trip to an emergency room.
  • Do not operate a chainsaw on a ladder or any unstable surface. Losing your balance while operating a chainsaw can result in a deadly injury.

Ready for Work

Image result for ready for work

Coming into work healthy and in the right mindset every day is just as important as being properly trained or having the right tool for the job. Many factors, both on and off the job, affect how well or poorly we do our jobs on any given day. Some of the factors we will cover are sickness, fatigue, medication, and stress.

Sickness– We all get sick from time to time. Some illnesses are minor and work can continue, but others we need to stay home to get better before coming to work. When you are sick you may not be able perform your duties as needed and this can put yourself or others at risk for an injury. Know when it is time to stay home due to an illness. During flu season especially, it is important that you do not come to work and infect others. Not only are you not able to work to your fullest ability you also affect others being able to work due to being infected with your illness.

Fatigue– Fatigue is a killer on jobsites all across the country. Many employees work over the normal 40 hours a week. Add on the demands of home life and there are many people who are probably too tired to safely perform their functions. Get at least six hours of sleep a night and eat a balanced diet to help combat the demands of a busy life. Drink caffeinated drinks or take a break and stretch when feeling tired on the job.

Medication– Many medications affect how we feel. When starting a new medication it is important to try it off the job to see how it affects you. Ask your doctor about all of the side effects. Make sure he or she understands the work you do as well as any other medications you take. Let a supervisor know if you are not feeling well due to a medication. If you feel comfortable telling a coworker about what medication you are taking, let him or her know so they can keep an eye on you.

Stress– There is good stress as well as bad stress. We are more familiar with the bad stress. Stress from work demands, home demands, family problems, health problems, etc. affect us every day. A combination of high expectations for productivity and limited resources to complete work often leads to high stress levels on the job. It is important to be able to handle stress in a constructive way. Exercising or taking time to enjoy hobbies is a good way to relieve stress. Recognize when you are stressed and step away from the situation to take time to relax.

Summary
Whether it is sickness, fatigue, medication, or stress affecting you in a negative manner at work it is important to speak up and address the problem. When “simple fixes” are not enough to correct a health related issue it is important to let a supervisor know and cease the work task. Address the problem at its source to ensure you can continue to work productively and safely.

Increased Focus on Safety Research

WHY EMPLOYERS SHOULD UTILIZE OSHA SEARCH TRENDS FROM GOOGLE TRENDS

The keyword “OSHA” peaks in January and February, and it’s easy to see why. After all, employers have New Year’s Resolutions of their own that place quite the emphasis on workplace safety!

What is the purpose of this trend discussion? One of the main elements of OSHA’s safety measures is to maintain a strict focus on safety…year round. It’s easy to see why searches tail off into the dog days of summer, as the “New Year, fresh start” mantra has worn off. But at the very least, it may not be tailing off quite as much with each passing year.

We can also assume that the searches incorporate a combination of curious employers and employees eager to read up on standards. Oh and, a few individuals looking to catch up on the news – OSHA citations are still common unfortunately!

HOW ARE THE SAFETY TREND LINES DISPLAYED?

The numbers on the left of the graph, from 0-100, show the term’s popularity. “100” is the peak popularity of the term throughout the year. “50” means that, at the given point, the term was HALF as popular as it was at its peak. With that in mind, let’s see the year-by-year comparison from New Year’s Day 2014 through February 11, 2018:

(Google Trends)
(Google Trends)

The date may be a little clustered, but the trends appear largely steady for each given month. The absolute peak came from January 29 – February 4, 2017. The next closest mark? A 99 very recently: January 28 – February 3, 2018.

How will the trend line look in 2018? With the new OSHA general industry and maritime rule enforcement for respirable crystalline silica coming on June 23, it sure feels like this summer will have a bigger focus on OSHA!

Asbestos Dangers

Asbestos is a material that was widely used in many building materials which are still found around us today. While it is still in use in a few different materials today, much of its use was stopped in the late 1980s after research revealed the negative health effects associated with its fibers. Many people have heard that asbestos is bad for human health, but do not understand how or why this is the case.

asbestos containing materialsWhat is Asbestos and Where is it Found?
(source: OSHA.gov) 

Asbestos is the name given to a group of naturally occurring minerals that are resistant to heat and corrosion. It has been used in products, such as insulation for pipes (steam lines for example), floor tiles, building materials, and in vehicle brakes and clutches. Some occupations whose workers have historically been exposed include construction workers, demolition crews, shipyard workers, automobile technicians, and those who worked in factories that produced asbestos-containing materials.

How is Asbestos Bad for Our Health?

The International Agency on Research for Cancer lists all forms of asbestos as “carcinogenic to humans”.  A carcinogen is defined as any substance or agent that tends to produce a cancer. The reason this mineral is a carcinogen is because of the effects its fibers have on human lungs. Asbestos is made up of extremely small fibers that are naked to the human eye. These fibers can become airborne and stay suspended in the air. When they are breathed in the fibers can make it past our bodies’ natural defenses and get lodged into the tissue of our lungs. When this occurs, scar tissue begins to form which reduces the function of our lungs. It eventually progresses to disability and death. Mesothelioma is a common deadly illness caused by exposure to these fibers. Sometimes the effects are not realized for decades after exposure.

Best Practices for Working Around Asbestos

Become familiar with what building products asbestos is found in and what it looks like. Knowing what to look for is important to order to avoid disturbing these materials. There are many materials in our workplaces that still contain asbestos to this day, but it is relatively harmless until it is disturbed in a way that creates airborne fibers. Smashing, breaking up, cutting, or grinding materials that may have asbestos in it should never be done. Creating dust through sweeping is another task that should be avoided if it is thought any of the dust is from materials that contain asbestos. Any asbestos containing materials that are beginning to break down or flake need to be properly sealed or abated by professionals.

Summary

While much of the occupational exposure to asbestos in developed countries has decreased, there is still exposure all across the world to this carcinogen. Cases of mesothelioma are still being diagnosed in the United States today due to exposure decades ago. Protect yourself by not disturbing any materials that could possibly have asbestos in them.

What is Your “Why”

what is your why safety talkWhat is Your “Why” for Working Safe? 

There is a rhyme and reason for every single thing that we do- day in and day out. There can be multiple drivers behind the reasons why we take a certain action. Some examples include long-formed habits, avoidance of pain, seeking of pleasure, money, relationships, or even deep-seated biological factors. The list of WHY we do what we do at any given moment of the day can be as long as a football field. It is necessary to be self-aware and understand what drives you to take certain actions or why you do not take certain actions. This is especially true for choosing to work safe on the job.

Finding Your “Why” for Working Safe

Working safely does not come natural for many of us. It can even be argued that many aspects of working safely actually work against our own human nature. Because of these facts, it is important to find your “why” for working safe on the job. Motivations for each individual will vary greatly, but below are a couple reasons that could serve as your “why” for choosing to work safe.

  • Your health. Obviously a big driving factor should be your own health and well-being. However it can be argued that this fact alone is not enough for a person to want to work safe. Many individuals may be more willing to take risks if they believe the only person it will affect is themselves.
  • Your family. Earning an income and providing for a family is one of the biggest “whys” for many things we do in life including working safely. Understanding how an injury will affect your family can be a strong “why”.
  • Your company. Love the company or not, the paycheck you earn from your work pays your bills. Not only does the company pay your bills in exchange for your work, but hundreds or thousands of other employees depend on the paycheck they get from the company. When individuals choose to take risks there can be huge long lasting effects for the company as a whole if injuries or fatalities occur. Understanding how injuries can negatively impact a business which in turn could lead to layoffs, reduction in benefits, lower raises, etc. can be your “why” to choose to follow safe work practices and procedures.

Taking Action Safety Talk

There are many variables for success in anything you do. At work there are many qualities in those individuals who are viewed as people who get things done and are effective in their position. One key attribute that successful people share is that they take action. Taking action is the foundation in succeeding at whatever you are trying to get accomplished. This basic principle is very important for success in every aspect in your work including working safe.

taking action toolbox talkTaking Action to Work Safe

Safety is one thing that does not happen by accident. Massive thought and action are necessary to ensure all workers at a jobsite go home healthy each day. This thought and action begins at the highest levels of management before work even begins and makes its way down to each individual worker completing their tasks for the day. Management can provide all of the training, resources, tools, equipment, etc. needed to work safely but if each individual worker does not take action to utilize these things then it is wasted effort.

An example of this at the most basic level is hazard identification. A large amount of time each year is spent on training employees to recognize hazards. While recognizing hazards is extremely important, it is only the start of the process to ensure safety during a work task. After hazards are identified, action needs to be taken to mitigate or eliminate the hazard. Workers who only identify hazards but do not take action to mitigate them still leave exposure to risk for everyone in that work area. Without action nothing gets done. Taking action to work safely can manifest itself in various ways.

Examples of Taking Action to Work Safer

  • Involving the right personnel to get hazards corrected
  • Stopping work to take the time to make a work task safe before proceeding
  • Taking ownership of a problem and seeing it through that it gets corrected
  • Communicating hazards or mitigation actions to coworkers
  • Asking for help to understand how to do a task safer or more efficiently when you do not understand

Proactive Versus Reactive Safety Approach

Related imageMany of the safety rules and procedures that are in place were “written in blood”, meaning they came about from a previous incident that caused an injury, property loss incident, or a fatality. When we implement a safeguard after an incident occurs we are taking a reactive approach to safety. We can look at the majority of rules and procedures that we follow today as a proactive approach towards safety, however many of them came from a reactive position. Something bad had to happen first before many of the rules and procedures were put into place.

Being proactive is the best way to approach safety in the workplace. Addressing and eliminating hazards before work begins should be a main goal of a company’s safety program. Many workers or the management in some companies would rather take a reactive approach with some hazards rather than being proactive and eliminating them up front. This mindset puts everyone onsite and the company as a whole at risk for an incident or injury.

Proactive Versus Reactive Example

An operator is on an excavator in an already tight work area. A crew that has a work task next to him decides to park in his work area. The crew is not aware of the scope of work for the operator’s task and that is why they did not recognize the hazard of parking there. This makes his job even more difficult to complete. Instead of the operator asking the crew to move their vehicles to a safer location or contact his supervisor he decides he can probably squeeze by the vehicles to complete his work. Ten minutes later he turns his excavator around and in the process hits two of the crew’s vehicles with his counterweight.

If he were to took a proactive approach towards the hazard of the vehicles in his work area this incident would not have happened. He could have stopped his work and asked the crew to move their vehicles to eliminate the hazard of hitting them. This small decision could have made a big difference.

Instead, there will be a site shutdown to complete an incident investigation. The investigation takes time and money to complete. There will be a large cost to fix the vehicles. Individuals could be written up in result of the incident. New procedures and rules will be implemented to prevent a similar incident from occurring.

Being proactive sometimes takes time to do successfully. To eliminate some hazards it takes thought and planning to do correctly. Other times, like in the example, a two minute conversation to move the vehicle could save hours of downtime, money, and stress for everyone involved.

What Can Hurt Me Today?

Every day before our work begins we should go through some type of process to evaluate the work for the day as well as the associated hazards. This process can include a self-check as well as a work area inspection and inspection of tools or equipment. During this process a main objective should be identifying hazards so that you can take steps to eliminate or mitigate the hazards found. One useful question to ask yourself before a work task begins is: “What can hurt me?”.

Questions to ask to work safelyAsking this Question as a Tool

Sure, it may seem very dark and negative to ask yourself this right as your work day is starting or when starting a new work task, but it can be the difference in recognizing the hazard that could injure you or someone else that day. Asking this question should trigger you to stop and really look around your work area and consider what dangers you are dealing with. Identifying uncontrolled hazards should be a top priority before starting any work task. Taking ownership of these hazards and seeing them through to get corrected is necessary for a safe workplace.

Taking Ownership of Mitigating Hazards

Identifying hazards is not worth much if you do not see it through that they are properly addressed. Even if you spot something and make a mental note to avoid that hazard it could seriously injure someone else in the area. Take the time and energy to properly mitigate the hazard so not only will you not be affected by it, but also your coworkers will not be either.

Summary

While a positive mindset and attitude are important for success in the workplace, asking yourself critical questions such as “what can hurt me today?” can trigger you take the extra time to really evaluate a work task. Take ownership of hazards in your work area and see them through that they get fixed. After all you never know what safeguard or action may make the difference in preventing an injury.