Tag Archives: housekeeping

SAFETY IN THE CHEMISTRY LAB (GUEST POST)

By Maree Kyle

Safety is valued in any workplace, but in areas where dangerous materials and other hazards are present, it’s essential that workers and businesses create a safe environment where accidents are mitigated. Unfortunately, even the best workplace environments boasting well-trained workers are susceptible to the occasional accident, making it crucial that emergency protocols be developed and taught alongside accident prevention measures.

In chemistry laboratories, safety considerations are amplified. Accidents when working with volatile and potentially dangerous materials can be permanently damaging and, in some cases, fatal. Good chemical hygiene is of utmost importance and this encompasses many facets of lab operations. Here are some steps every lab should take to minimize the risk of an accident and to improve emergency response when mishaps do occur.

1. Demand storeroom organization

Maintaining organization and order in a storeroom makes for more efficient lab work, but it also greatly enhances safety in the workspace. Workers need to keep track of a number of chemicals, many with expiration dates, and old chemicals need to be properly disposed of. Additionally, better organization helps ensure property inventory levels of various chemical materials. A good approach to handling the storeroom is to put one worker in charge of the storeroom, managing its contents and handling upkeep as needed.

2. Display safety signs as intended

A little signage can be very helpful for reminding workers of the dangers present in the workplace. Make sure all signage is properly displayed to maximize its efficacy in helping workers avoid accidents.

3. Demand proper attire

It’s not unheard of that some confident chemists will occasionally decline to wear certain safety gear, considering it more a nuisance than a form of protection. But that’s a risky move that’s bound to end up in failure at some point. From the lab’s perspective, a failure to wear safety gear creates extra risks that could be a liability to the facility. Outline proper attire requirements in various situations and strongly enforce the protocol for failing to follow lab rules.

4. Clean, clean, clean

According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, the third-leading cause of workplace injuries is slips and falls. The vast majority of these are preventable by making sure hazards and obstacles are kept out of the workspace at all times. Clean floors, countertops and other workspaces frequently to eliminate fluids and other hazards that can lead to accidents. The lab should also be stocked with good materials for quickly and easily cleaning up messes. Other lab-specific safety measures include keeping clutter off of countertops, keeping excess chemicals in proper storage, and handling waste products properly and quickly.

5. Offer proper training on equipment

Greater familiarity with various lab equipment will prevent devices from being misused. Teach lab workers how to identify faulty devices, further preventing accidents resulting from equipment errors.

With so many dangerous materials present, chemistry labs can be particularly prone to serious accidents. Every lab needs to invest time and resources into educating their workers and instituting safety measures. Don’t let safety awareness be a one-time thing: Keep workers mindful of safety concerns with random inspections and continued training workshops to reduce your lab’s risk of a preventable accident.

Thanks, Maree, for this invaluable information regarding safety when working with chemicals.  Texas America Safety Company has a whole range of personal protective equipment to ensure employees’ safety at work. Pat

 

AVOIDING SLIPS, TRIPS, AND FALLS!

Remember when you were in school, and you would see someone pull the chair out from under another child that was ready to have a seat, but not on the floor?  Sure, it was funny for the observers, but for the victim, it didn’t seem quite so funny.  We are older now, and hopefully, hold the horseplay for home, not work.  As we get older, a fall that might only embarrass a 20-year-old can cause a more serious injury to a 40-year-old, or older! 

Slips, trips, and falls are some of the most common injuries that happen at the workplace.  Employees can hurt their head or back, or have a fracture, pulled muscles, or deep contusions as the result of a fall.  Management must commit to actions that implement engineering and work practice controls; supervisors must conduct inspections and monitor work practices; and employees must use the safety training they received to avoid hazardous conditions. 

First, training employees into the hazard control process is essential in developing an effective injury prevention program.  Footwear should be low-heel and non-skid.  Pant legs should not extend to within less than an inch of the floor.  Workers should understand the need for immediate cleanup for spilled liquids.  Running and horseplay at work should not be tolerated.  Here are some other tips: 

  • Loose floor mats can cause slips. 
  • All aisles in the workplace should be at least 22 inches wide in order not to turn sideways while navigating the area.
  • Poor lighting causes employees to not recognize hazards, especially those workers with poor vision. 
  • Conduct pre-shift inspections of all work areas to ensure all slip and trip hazards are controlled. 
  • Employees should not leave any material on stairs, crossovers, or between ladders and walls. 
  • Have waste containers easily accessible. 
  • Floors that occasionally have fluid spills should have a good anti-slip coating. 
  • Salt down walkways in snowy, icy weather.
  • Hoses and cords strung across walkways in production areas are a continual hazard. 
  • Cords are always a problem in offices and conference rooms. 

Next, we come to working on elevated work areas.  It is required by OSHA that fall protection devices are used when working six feet above the ground.  Employees must be trained in the use of fall arrest equipment, and it must be used in order to prevent falls.  

When safety personnel and supervisors analyze the potential for workplace hazards, it is important that they assess the different physical abilities of their workers.  Some may have health or physical conditions that impairs their vision, judgment and balance.  Others may be older, ill, under stress, or taking medications.  Supervisors should train employees that the actions they choose and control can contribute to a slip, trip, and fall injury if they set themselves up for one.  Signage should be placed wherever slip or trip hazards exist.  

Since it’s hard for some people to walk and chew gum at the same time, workers shouldn’t be walking and talking on their cell phones while at work.  Inattentive behavior while walking, distractions, such as not watching where they are going, can contribute to a fall.  Don’t take shortcuts; use walkways or designated paths, and slow down – don’t be in a hurry.  This can result in an injury and then you’ll be late for sure!

THEME FOR NATIONAL SAFETY MONTH – JUNE 19 – 25: PREVENTING SLIPS, TRIPS, AND FALLS

Slips, trips, and falls represent the most common cause of workplace injuries, behind  motor vehicle accidents.  Slips, trips, and falls can result in head, back, and neck injuries, as well as broken bones, cuts and bruises.  According to the National Safety Councils’ 2008 injury facts, the average workers’ comp costs for slips, trips, and falls, was $21,500.  So we’re not talking about minor incidents. 

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety reports that 60% of falls happen at the same floor level.  The other 40% are falls from heights.  Even the slightest change in elevation surface (1/4” to ½”) can cause a trip or fall.  Caution signs should be placed in obvious areas to avert falls.  Those who work at heights should wear some form of personal fall arrest system – harness, lanyards, tie-off slings, etc. – one that fits the particular job best.  Falls from ladders, roofs, stairs, or jumping to a lower level causes many injuries.  Each of these risks demand different considerations in a fall arrest program.   Many homes have areas with lower-level family rooms, which are hazardous for visitors.  Homeowners should warn them to “watch their step” while visiting.  

Good housekeeping in a business is vital.  If these practices are not enforced, other administrative control measures implemented will never be fully effective.  Safety and housekeeping go hand in hand.  This is extremely true, especially when addressing the serious issue of slips, trips and falls.  If the facility’s housekeeping habits are poor, the result may well be employee injuries, rising insurance costs, and regulatory citations.  If the facilities are noticeably clean and well organized, it is a good sign that its overall safety program is effective as well.  Disorderly work environments can negatively impact the morale of employees who must function in a job site that is dirty, hazardous, and poorly managed.  Because slips, trips, and falls occur more than any other occupational injury, it makes good sense for the company to ensure that employees comply with a good housekeeping program.  This is a plan that should be part of each worker’s daily performance.  If each individual does his/her part to keep work areas clean, the housekeeping program will be a success.  The same rule applies to our homes.  If we don’t place things in their right place, someone is going to come along and trip over something that shouldn’t have been there.  Nightlights are good for preventing falls (or running into a wall) for overnight visitors who could get lost in the darkness in your home. 

Most falls can be prevented.  All we should do is follow this simple rule: watch where we are going!  We take walking for granted, so we pay little attention to potential hazards.  Here are some common fall hazards cited by the National Safety Council that we should watch for:

  • Hidden steps;
  • Wet spots;
  • Smooth surfaces;
  • Loose, irregular surfaces;
  • Oil and grease.
  • Obstacles in walkways;
  • Electrical cords in walkways;
  • Aisles that have boxes stacked and left in the way;
  • File cabinet drawers left open;
  • Tools left out. 

Many workers are required to wear protective footwear on the job.  Shoes that have slip-resistant soles help prevent  injuries.  Safety footwear is designed to protect feet against the most common types of injuries, impact, compression and puncture.  It is important to choose footwear according to the hazards present, but also be sure it is comfortable enough to wear for several hours.  

Tomorrow we will delve into this serious subject a little bit more.  Until then, stay safe, and remain upright!

 

SOURCES: CCOHS, SORM (Sstate Office of Risk Management, Texas), OSHA

CAN YOU FIND HIDDEN HAZARDS IN YOUR WORKPLACE?

Do you know of any workplace that is totally safe?  Hazards exist in just about every vocation there is.  There are safety professionals that identify those hazards and train their employees to be mindful of the risks that are involved in their particular industry; most of these hazards are easy to control.  However, there are hidden hazards that can cause damage, illness, or injury to workers. Have you noticed any of these at your place of work? 

Occupational Health and Safety legislation outlines standard equipment controls that must apply to every type of equipment that is in operation: machine guards, light sensors, warning devices or other safety devices, lockout systems, good houskekeeping and general work safety rules.  Safety devices are classified as engineering controls – the best form of control when running equipment.  You can observe the guards on the machinery, but there may be hidden hazards around equipment, such as dust, fumes, particles in the air, or possible flying objects.  That’s where PPE comes in.  Companies furnish goggles, respirators, gloves, safety glasses, and any kind of personal protective equipment that fits the needs of the employees.

Here’s a few “hidden hazards” that you may have spotted:

  • Poor housekeeping.  Clutter,  trash, tools left out. Cleanliness should be a requirement at all workplaces.
  • Fumes, exhaust, toxic fumes, chemicals, cleaning products, pesticides, toners, office products – these can cause certain persons to have allergic reactions, or other health-related illnesses.
  • Poor ventilation.  Working in a too-cool or too-hot environment can cause illness.
  • Second-hand smoke.
  • Loose carpet.
  • Slick floors.
  • Loose steps.
  • Poor lighting.
  • Poorly stacked materials in storeroom.  Be sure to use a stepladder before reaching up to remove something from a shelf.  There could be lots of stored energy just waiting to fall on you.
  • Windowless doors.  In high-traffic areas, persons can have serious collisions by not watching for someone coming from the other side.
  • Computer screens – cause dry eye if stared into too long.
  • Repetitive motions can cause carpal tunnel, tennis elbow, or tendonitis.
  • Drug/alcohol abuse by coworker.  This can cause serious problems for all workers.  It is best to report this to your supervisor before someone gets hurt.
  • Bullying or harassment is a hazard to other workers, especially the one who is being bullied or harassed.

You can probably name several hidden hazards that we haven’t thought of.  Correcting hazards before illnesses, accidents or allergic reactions occur is a winning strategy.  Be a fanatic about health and safety, and show your supervisor that you believe it should be a top priority.  Fortunately, most hazards are situations that managers and supervisors can do something about.  But it begins with awareness.  One thing may be a threat to someone’s health but it  doesn’t affect others.  However,  all employees deserve to be protected all the time.  You can make your office, shop or factory a safe place to work.  Don’t assume that it is until you become aware of what has been and is being done to keep it safe.  Do your part, and always stay alert!  We would appreciate hearing your ideas about hidden hazards in the workplace!

GOOD HOUSEKEEPING IS A GOOD IDEA

Do you take pride in keeping your home and yard nice and tidy?  How do you feel about keeping your workplace the same?  I have worked with some pretty messy people, ones who would throw their paper coffee cups on the floor, missing the wastebasket, and leaving other trash behind, and I wondered if they did the same at their houses.  Clutter, debris, and spills are a serious hazard, both at home and work.  Good housekeeping in the workplace pays big dividends, by preventing injuries, saving time by not having to look for tools or materials, and keeping  the boss happy. 

A sloppy workplace contributes to accidents such as tripping over objects that may have been left in the aisles or on stairs, getting hit by falling objects, or slipping on wet, dirty, or greasy floors.  Broken fixtures  in buildings that are not properly repaired can also cause accidents.  If the workplace is not kept free from dust and vapors, health problems could be an issue.  A safety officer should  complete a housekeeping checklist weekly.  Each department should be responsible to see that they pass the inspection with flying colors.  Housekeeping safety programs should include inspection, maintenance, upkeep, and repairs.  Aisles, fire equipment, first aid stations and emergency eyewash stations should never be blocked by clutter or debris. 

Employee facilities should be cleaned daily and stocked with soap, towels, and disinfectants. Many companies have individual lockers for workers to be able to change from their work clothes, in order to not contaminate their homes if they work in environments that contain hazardous materials.  

We’ve all heard the saying, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.”  This saying applies to our homes and places of employment.  Being organized is the best way to be efficient.  Dispensers play an important part of being organized in the workplace.  There are dispensers for everything from tape, to earplugs, eyeglasses, goggles, facemasks, medicines, hairnets, shoe covers, beard covers, and just about anything that requires being ready for use. 

Let’s all try a little harder to be good stewards at work. If every one of us keeps our little corner of the world tidy, what a safer world it will be.