Can’t believe this is the last day of September!  I hope the days are getting a little cooler where you are, and that you are enjoying crisp, cool mornings!

There are so many safety topics that we will cover in October.  Because October is Fire Safety Month, and Fire Prevention Month, we will be talking about many of the ways that we can make our homes and workplaces “fire-proof.”

October is Animal Safety and Protection Month.  As an animal lover, it is particularly important to me that we all keep our pets as healthy and safe as possible.

National Cyber Safety Awareness Month is observed in October.  We all have heard of the horrible things that can occur because of persons that abuse the use of computers to do things that are unspeakable.  Whether it is personal identity theft, or harrassment, using a computer as a tool to harm others is unacceptable.

Another observance for October is Helmet Safety Month.  We talk a lot about the dangers of sports activities and work duties that are involved when helmet or hardhat is not worn.  Please be sure your kids wear those helmets when riding their bikes to school!

I think there’s even a Drive Safely Work Week in October, so looks like I have plenty of work ahead of me! 

A very important occasion for families is Halloween, especially if there’s little spooks involved.  Start making your plans now for a safe one for all concerned.  Map out the route you plan to take the kids, and go with them on that busy night.

Until tomorrow, enjoy your last day of September, 2010.


Welding, cutting, soldering, and brazing in construction, maintenance, and fabricating activities are considered “hot work” when there is a potential fire hazard present.  Many lives have been lost due to explosions caused by vapors contained in tanks or storage vessels that were ignited by a spark or welders’ torch.  The U.S. Chemical Safety Board has investigated numerous accidents that had been caused when doing this type of work, and found that many companies had not filed for a permit to do the work, or conducted any safety planning beforehand for contract welders and other workers.  Risks involved in performing hot work are asphyxiation, electric shock, air contamination, fire, and explosions. 

When hot work is being performed in confined spaces, such as silos, ship compartments, furnaces, pipelines, vessels, pits, vats, tanks, degreasers, these procedures are essential to ensure the safety of all involved in the work: 

  • Have written permit identifying hot work to be done;
  • In-depth hazards evaluation of location;
  • Safety training in the hazards of hot work;
  • Empty and purge tanks beforehand;
  • Check tanks, vessels, and pipe for corrosion;
  • Test atmosphere for suitable oxygen content;
  • Perform gas monitoring;
  • Gas detectors should always be used prior to and during hot work;
  • Vapors rise as outside temperature warms up, so continuous monitoring is important;
  • Keep vents open;
  • Be sure valves are leak-free;
  • Be sure all power sources are turned off;
  • Have NIOSH/MSHA approved breathing devices when required;
  • Equipment should never block exits;
  • Have constant communication with rescue personnel close-by. 

If there is any doubt regarding the hot work to be performed, a professional environmental specialist should check the air quality and make specific recommendations for the welding/cutting situation.  Special precautions should be taken.  Welders perform all sorts of work on a daily basis.  They know the risks involved and are specialists in their field.  They also understand that there are several types of PPE that they must utilize:

  •         Fire retardant welder’s cap;
  •         Welding helmet that contains the correct filter shade lens;
  •        Gloves that are tough, long-lasting, comfortable, and meet the   needs and hazards of the particular job;
  •         Earplugs or muffs in case of loud noise while performing the job, as well as protect the ears from debris;
  •        Goggles to protect the eyes. 

Welding is a job that requires much training and skill.  It is up to each company that hires either its own welders or contract welders to ensure their safety at all costs.

Source: CSB



Have you ever wondered if you could fill in for another employee at your workplace if they got hurt and were unable to work for a while?  Statistics show that many personnel absences are caused by accidents in the workplace.  If management has neglected safety measures and failed to do cross training for such occasions, everyone will suffer the consequences.  

Cross training procedures for absences in workplace management must meet with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s safety and procedural standards.  When companies do not follow those guidelines, they risk disaster for their employees and businesses.  Employees should be prepared for all types of emergencies.  With our present telecommunication systems, companies can conduct cross training for absences in the workplace for all employees in all work-shifts.  In the absence of a key employee, anyone would be qualified and able to perform safety standards and emergency measures for accidents and/or disasters.  More intensive training can be given in addition to computer-based plans. 

Do you know what to do in case of a bomb threat?  Fire? Emergency evacuation?  Does your management team conduct drills very often?  Do you have first aid training, and would you know how to respond to emergency needs of your coworkers?  Do you know where the first aid kit and first aid supply is?

Safety coordinators should be responsible for designating others to take their place in the event that they are not present at the time of an emergency.  There should be several persons that can conduct an orderly evacuation of employees, those who will stay in the premises for last-minute decisions, and someone to follow up and account for all employees.  It is very important that safety cross training is done.  Teamwork is a necessity!

If you work for a large company, and have noticed a job that you might be interested in, ask your supervisor.  People do best in the jobs that are suited for them.  Persons that follow the rules and are cautious in going about their duties, are ones that management recognizes.  Those that express a desire to learn different aspects of a variety of jobs are able to replace someone who may be absent due to illness or injury.  Being familiar with more than one job responsibility is beneficial to both the employee and company.  And companies may find they can do more with less, when they have employees that are able to “multitask.” 

Sometimes it may not be as easy to fill someone else’s shoes as it looks.  Everyone can stuff the “suggestion box” with great ideas,  but until you actually do someone’s job, you can’t know.  It certainly is admirable if you want to try!


Most of the time we see bodyguards in movies, or television shows, and it looks like a very glamorous job.  Actually, we have no clue as to the actual responsibilities their job entails.  Of course, the United States Secret Service is one of the first occupations  that comes to mind.  They are highly trained officers, many of whom have combat experience.  These agents are willing to lay their lives on the line, if necessary, to protect their President, his family, other Executive Officers, former Presidents and Vice-Presidents. 

Weaponry that bodyguards may use depends on the jurisdiction where they work.  Some may legally carry concealed handguns, batons, pepper spray, or taser guns.  Others with more high-risk vocations may carry sub-machine guns or assault rifles.  Specialized weapons such as sniper rifle and shotguns, may also be used to protect clients.  Secret Service Counter Assault Teams are armed with a large variety of guns and rifles.  Those in high-risk assignments also wear body-armor vests, and carry folded bullet-proof shields that look like briefcases.  The United States Department Bureau of Diplomatic Security protects U.S. missions overseas.  Officers that were agents of the U.S. Treasury Department are now assigned to the Department of Homeland Security. 

Being a bodyguard involves all types of detailed work, such as pre-planning every trip or event their client has scheduled.  They have to check out buildings, hotel rooms, backgrounds  of people their client will be in contact with, and inspect the vehicles to be sure there are no bombs or other traps.  Some bodyguards serve as drivers, but there are usually other bodyguards along, as well.  There are close-protection officer ancillary units that check for IED’s and electronic “bugs.”  Most politicians and dignitaries around the world require bodyguards. 

Other types of bodyguards include those who protect their celebrity clients from paparazzi and stalkers.  Lance Armstrong has had the same two bodyguards since 2000, Erwin Ballarta, and his partner, Serge Borlee.  They are both well trained in defensive tactics.  Ballarta is a defensive tactics instructor for the Texas Department of Public Safety, and has 22 years of law enforcement experience.   Ballarta and Borlee have accompanied Armstrong on every Tour de France competition.  They meet with local law enforcement ahead of time to map out the entire ride, locate medical stations and trauma doctors, and even run along beside him across the finish line for each stage of the race to protect him from overzealous fans, boisterous crowds, and/or some even wanting to do him harm. 

Many private companies offer security for individuals on a continued  basis or for special occasions.  Their personnel may offer special cars, transportation, and take many other safety measures to protect their clients.  It is amazing how many people worldwide require bodyguards and special security systems.  The job requires being physically fit, having good hearing and vision, and available to work long hours.  They are very dedicated to the duty of shielding their client, whether a dignitary, celebrity, or any other person in need of protection. 

We should appreciate those people who have the expertise and are willing to keep others safe in a world that makes this such a necessity.


Most industrial settings have hazards of all types.  One kind of hazard that is particularly acute during winter months is combustible dust.   We feel  it is important that we share some information on this dangerous situation that may be present in many businesses. 

The National Fire Protection Association indicates that 1/32” of  an accumulation of this kind of dust can rise to an explosion.  This is an amount equal to the thickness of a dime.  Any combustible material (and some materials normally considered noncombustible) can burn rapidly when in a finely divided form. Powdered products that are stored and transported in bulk bags can form combustible dust when the bags are filled or discharged. If such a dust cloud is hovering in air in the right strength, it can become explosive. Any source of ignition; a flame, heating elements, frictional spark, or electrostatic discharge can cause a detonation. Such an explosion can cause employee deaths, injuries, and destruction of entire buildings. These events have killed many employees and injured hundreds over the past decades.  Materials that may form combustible dust include metals (such as aluminum, iron, zinc, and magnesium), wood, coal, plastics,  paper, soap, and certain textiles. In many accidents, employers and employees were unaware that a hazard even existed.  Other industries at risk of combustible dust explosions are:  food, (e.g., candy, sugar, spice, starch, flour, feed), grain, tobacco, pulp, rubber, furniture, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, dyes, and fossil fuel power generation. 

Dust Explosions are preventable.  The National Fire Protection Association has comprehensive information that can help manufacturers avoid these catastrophes.  They can assist company safety personnel, management, and others who are responsible for recognizing dust fire and explosion hazards byadvising  them in establishing control measures. Good housekeeping is of the utmost importance. Many manufacturers use industrial dust and fume collection systems in their facilities. 

One of the most important engineering controls available for improving or maintaining the quality of air in the work environment is ventilation. Ventilation is a way of controlling the environment with airflow. Facilities failing to furnish adequate maintenance of ventilation equipment, those workplaces operated to maximize energy conservation, windowless areas, and areas with high occupancies or confined spaces may have poor ventilation.

Personal protective equipment for employees in these industries includes respirators, hardhats, gloves, and eye protection, such as safety goggles.  Protecting the employees by furnishing the right PPE, and controlling risk factors in the facility should be the main goal of any business.  Those in charge should be aware of any previous fires their company has experienced.

Some of the above information was obtained from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, an independent federal agency that investigates chemical accidents.  These board members are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.  They are comprised of chemical and mechanical engineers, safety experts, and others with vast experience in public and private sectors.  Following their investigations, they make recommendations to OSHA, EPA, individual organizations and labor groups. 

In 2003, the CSB launched investigations of three major industrial explosions involving combustible powders. These explosions – in North Carolina, Kentucky, and Indiana – cost 14 lives and caused numerous injuries and substantial property losses. The Board responded by launching a nationwide study to determine the scope of the problem and recommend new safety measures for facilities that handle combustible powders. The CSB issued its final report at a public meeting in Washington, DC, on November 9, 2006, calling for a new OSHA regulatory standard designed to prevent combustible dust fires and explosions.


In some parts of the country, it comes earlier than others, but September 23rd  is the first day of fall!   The northern states are already feeling cooler temperatures and seeing the changing of  colors.  It takes a little longer for those of us in the southern states; however, the early mornings are beginning to feel somewhat cooler.  For most of us, it’s a favorite time of the year.  Kids are back in school, football is in full swing, baseball playoffs are around the corner, and in general, it’s a great time.  

Fall brings a reminder of tasks that must be done to get ready for winter.  As the leaves begin to fall and cover the yard, the pleasure of raking them up is ahead.  Be sure to wear some good work gloves to avoid rubbing blisters.  Pruning trees is another chore, and should be done with extreme care.  Standing on a stepladder to prune trees isn’t a safe idea.  When you are lifting boxes full of trash and debris from the yard, remember to lift with your legs and don’t strain your back.  

Taking a drive on a beautiful fall day is a great idea.  There’s nothing better than seeing the array of colors.  Use extra caution, though, as there may be more animals crossing the roads during cooler days and evenings.  Deer, raccoons, skunks, and many other little critters are out and about, and not watching for you, so you must watch for them.  Those pretty leaves that fall from the trees can build up on the roads and create a driving hazard, if they are wet.  When wet, they become the same hazard as puddles or standing water.  They also may be covering potholes or other holes in the road.  Early cool mornings can also be foggy.  Fog is the single most dangerous condition a driver can encounter, so slow down. 

If you choose to take one last fall hike or outing, please consider using the same precautions that we have passed on to you before:

  • Take your cell phone.
  • Tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return.
  • Watch for snakes, as they prepare for hibernation, they may be more restless.
  • Take along plenty of water, food, a first aid kit and supplies and flashlight.
  • Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot while you are camping.
  • Don’t attempt to get close to wild animals.
  • Wear high visibility vests and caps.
  • Stay alert to weather changes. 

Seasonal allergies also plague some of us in the fall.  Be sure you have some over-the-counter medication to take before they get the best of you; if necessary, ask your doctor to prescribe allergy medicine so you can enjoy the season. 

As you are driving to work, be sure to watch for children on their way to school.  Allow driving time to reach your destination without rushing.  As you go home, remember the days will be becoming shorter, meaning darkness will come earlier.  Enjoy every day of the season, and stay safe and well.  Be sure to get your flu shot if you haven’t done so already. 

One last reminder: your pets will notice the changes in the weather, too.  Be sure that those who live outside have good shelter, water, and extra food when the days get cold.  They are family members, too, and deserve to be well cared for.


The first global pandemic that had occurred in 40 years hit worldwide last year!  A nasty virus called “H1N1 Influenza” spread throughout the globe.  Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses.  It can be mild or severe, and can cause death in older persons, youngsters, and those who have certain underlying health conditions.  The H1N1 virus did not seem to affect older citizens as much as young adults, some of them in good health. 

Signs of influenza are body aches, chills, dry cough, fever, headache, and stuffy nose.  “Stomach flu” is not influenza.  There are certain antiviral medications that your healthcare provider may wish to prescribe for you.  Prevention is the key: annual flu vaccine.  Scientists make up a different vaccine each year because strains of influenza vary from year to year.  Experts are predicting we will see more of the H1N1 bug, as well as other viruses.  The 2010-2011 flu vaccine will protect against the 2009 H1N1 strain and two other influenza viruses.  If you take the shot, and still get the flu, the severity of it should be reduced. 

Symptoms of the common cold, which strikes more than one billion victims per year in the United States, are scratchy throat, runny nose, and sneezing.  Bed rest, fluids, gargling with warm salt water, using lozenges and throat sprays are common treatments for colds.  Colds are usually milder than flu and most often do not result in serious health problems.  Some over-the- counter medications might help.  Antibiotics will not kill viruses or prevent bacterial infections.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children not be given aspirin when they have a viral illness such as a cold.  Contact your pediatrician for best advice. 

When it comes to the common cold or influenza, here are some ways to help you  prevent and/or cope with either one of them: 

  • Avoid touching shared telephones, computers, stairway rails, doorknobs, money, and after doing so, wash hands properly!
  • Use alcohol-based disinfecting products for your hands.
  • Wash hands frequently, and teach your children to do so as well.
  • Try not to get too close to someone who is sneezing, coughing.
  • Stay away from others if you are sneezing or coughing.
  • If you have to sneeze or cough, sneeze or cough into your elbow, not hands.
  • While you are ill, stay home, DO NOT PASS GO, and get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids.  Don’t take your germs to work or school, get well first!

Other respiratory viruses that curculate during flu season are non-flu viruses that include rhinovirus – one source of the common cold, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) which is the most common cause of severe respiratory illness in young children and persons age sixty-five and older.

If you haven’t had your flu vaccine yet, think seriously about getting one.  Let’s try to stay ahead of the “bugs” this year!

Sources: Centers for Disease Control

Nat’l Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases


Those American workers that do repetitive lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, and restraining objects by hand need to be in good shape to be able to perform their jobs without suffering the consequences.  Lower back pain accounts for about one-quarter of all lost work time in the United States.  Overexertion has been listed as the cause of lower back pain by 60% of those people who experience it.  There can be many causes that contribute to back pain besides work.  It can be aggravated by not being physically fit, recreational activities, being overweight, aging, and stress.  Add one of those to handling manual materials on a daily basis, and you have a problem. 

We don’t think about it, but during our lifetime, we all handle heavy objects.  How many babies have you carried around until they could walk?  (They aren’t materials, but they do need to be lifted and carried.) Think about all the heavy work you have done in and around your house through the years, and although it doesn’t compare to the daily work that others do, it is a reminder that we go through life doing heavy tasks that require strength.  One thing that always was awkward: putting a wheelchairinto the trunk of the car.  My mom was an invalid and when I would take her to the mall for outings or to our home, I would have to lift the wheelchair in and out of the car and help her into it.  You really get into some awkward positions and feel it in your back.  So I empathize with those caregivers who have to get in many awkward positions in order to assist their patients. 

When you think of those whose job is to lift –  nurses, health caregivers, parcel delivery persons, warehouse workers, manufacturing employees, those who load and unload trucks, and movers are just a few that come to mind.   Fatigue should be reduced as much as possible through the proper ergonomic assessments.  Proper lifting techniques must be taught, and supervisors should observe that they are being followed.  Videotaping workers can be a tool to determine how they can do their job in a way that alleviates straining the back.  Serious injury can be the result of work exceeding a person’s physical abilities. 

Our posture plays an important part in how we feel, too.  Strengthening muscles, and stretching before beginning the workday can make big differences.  Companies should keep their employees actively engaged in the planning phase of the ergonomic work structure.  Cranes, hoists, carts, and dollies can be utilized to reduce the strain from lifting.  Personal protective equipment, such as safety shoes, gloves, eye protection and OSHA hard hats should be included in the workers’ gear.  If it fits comfortably, it won’t hinder the workers as they perform their duties.

If the workplace is ergonomically designed to assist workers and keep them safe, the result for the company will be an increase in productivity and decrease in injuries.




We are all human, and make mistakes, but in the field of medicine, errors may be costly.  In a recent report by the Institute of  Medicine, between 44,000 and 98,000 people die in U.S. hospitals as a result of medical mistakes.  More persons die from medical errors than motor vehicle accidents, breast cancer, or Aids.

Most people hate to ask their doctors many questions, because they are intimidated by the fact that the doctor is busy and in a rush to get to the next patient.  You are as important as that next person.  If you leave your doctor’s visit with questions on your mind about a certain procedure or medication they have prescribed, you are putting your complete faith in them.  You must be an integral part of your healthcare team.  If you have children or elderly parents, you are a very important member of their healthcare team! 

Be sure to tell your physician every type of medication you are taking, vitamins, herbs, over-the-counter drugs, as well as all prescriptions, and any adverse reactions you have had in the past to certain medications.  If you have trouble reading the doctor’s script, ask him the name of it, and be sure your pharmacists can read it, as well.  This is one way to ensure that a mistake won’t be made.  Most pharmacies include written instructions and information on side effects of the medicine, so be sure you read that completely. 

Medical errors can occur in hospitals, clinics, doctor’ offices, nursing homes, patient homes, or outpatient services.   Mistakes can be made during operations, diagnostics, with equipment, reading lab reports, or from a routine task such as giving a high-salt meal to a patient on a salt-free diet.  Hospital patients should ask their health care workers if they have washed their hands before touching them; hospital-associated infections are very common.  The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons urges its members to initial the surgery site prior to surgery; you want to be sure they are putting a new joint in the right place! 

Should you receive a diagnosis that you question, make arrangements to see another physician, someone who is not associated with your doctor.  Getting a second opinion is very important in certain illnesses.  Sign a release to pick up your lab work results.  Too often the nurse will call and say “everything’s fine,” and hopefully it is.  But they may miss some critical part of the report, and it doesn’t hurt to ask a professional to look at your results.  Your doctor may not make the mistake; it could be a radiologist or pathologist that may misinterpret the x-rays or other tests.  My physician asked one time for a third reading of an x-ray for me because two radiologists came up with completely different diagnoses.  He sent it to a third one, whose opinion barely agreed with one of the others.  If that happens, who are you to believe?  It can be very scarey.

We aren’t undermining hospitals and physicians in any way; they are diligent in their efforts to keep us well.  It is merely an effort to encourage you to be involved and understand what is going on anytime you are being cared for.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  From experience, most of us have sat in hospital rooms with family members and wondered if the outcome would have been different if we had asked for more information.  If you feel that you or a family member is not being attended as you/they should be, speak up.  Remember, you must be the guardian for yourself, as well as your loved ones.




Our knees are very important joints in our bodies, as they allow us to walk, run, jump, kick, sit and stand.  But this weight-bearing joint is the cause of many problems and much pain.  We see athletes suffer from knee injuries- many that require surgery and long-term rehabilitation.  There are an estimated 19 million Americans annually who visit their orthopedic surgeons because of knee discomfort.  One cause of knee pain is osteoarthritis, a painful condition that happens when the cartilage in the knee wears away.  The description “bone on bone,” is the term used when the cartilage is gone.  There are over 10 million people in the United States that have osteoarthritis of the knee.  Rheumatoid arthritis is a debilitating disease that causes the same result, as well as joint deformities, especially in the hands and feet.

  Twisting, stretching, or straining the knees are common ways of injuring them.  There are ways that you can try to reduce knee  discomfort;  in case of an injury, try the RICE method of routine home care:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation 

If this method doesn’t improve the condition, see your doctor.  Seek emergent care if the injury causes immediate swelling, bones appear to be deformed, pain is intolerable, inability to bear weight, or a loss of sensation below the injury site occurs.  You also need medical attention if the joint is warm and has fever. 

Exercise is an important way to build muscles  that stabilize the knees.  Strong and flexible quadriceps and hamstring muscles can prevent minor stresses to our knees.   Try ten minutes of stretching before your daily workout and see if that won’t help.  Also, wearing a good pair of running shoes that have shock absorption takes some of the stress away from the knees.  Low profile knee supports may be helpful to runners to stabilize their knees.   If you have weak knees, your best option may be walking rather than running.

Certain types of shoes (clogs or stiff-soled walking shoes) may cause your joints to carry loads up to 15% greater than shoes with flexible soles, according to a study from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.  High heels may also increase the load on knees.

Protecting your knees is important, too.  If your job requires working on your knees, there are all types of knee pads that will make the work day much easier by taking stress off the joints.  They also serve the same purpose for at-home or garden chores. 

Maintain a healthy weight in order to help your joints stay strong.  Even ten pounds can put more stress on your knees.  One national survey stated that obese men had five times the risk of getting osteoarthritis of the knee than their lighter peers; and obese women had four times the same risk.  

One personal note:  for years, my husband suffered from severe pain in his knees and legs.  He saw several doctors who x-rayed his knees and said they were just fine.  Finally, we were sent to an internist, who repeated x-rays of the knees.  Later, after observing him walk, sent him back to have his hips x-rayed.  He had “bone on bone” in both hips.  Even though his hips never hurt during that time, the doctor explained that his pain was “referred pain.”  It is amazing that pain can fool us by traveling to another joint.  Following his hip replacements, the knee pain went away. 

Although sports and recreational activities cause many knee injuries, more knee injuries happen at home or work.  Regardless of your location, on the playing field, at work, or working in your house, yard, or garden, take precautions to protect your joints.  They can usually be repaired or replaced, but it’s a costly experience.