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Safety Instruction Blog

Make It A Safe Day!

  • Death By Snow Shovel

    I know it’s a little early, but here in Wisconsin we’ve already seen some of the white stuff and we just put away the Halloween decorations and masks. Ok, I’ll give you that, it is pretty and can be romantic and fun to play in, making snow angels and sledding, skiing, and snow ball fights. But did you know that over 100 people a year die of cardiac arrest after shoveling snow? So can we consider this “White Hazardous Waste Removal?” Just a thought.

    So what is snow shoveling? It’s a form of isometric exercise. So if you’re startingsnow shoveling out on an exercise program, you should always consider your present state of health and talk to your doctor about it. In my past life I had a bit of a “wake up” call. When I was 52 I had some symptoms which did concern me, and I actually was exercising which was a trigger. I did casually mention it to my wife (after about six months) who immediately stopped my life in motion and made all the right calls to get me in to see a doctor. In less than two days I was given nitro glycerin to make sure I could make it to the next day and scheduled for a heart catheterization. The cardiologist doing the procedure wouldn’t let me go home without first doing a 5 by-pass open heart surgery. I always prayed so I could be patient I never meant to be one. So now getting back to snow shoveling and the environment surrounding it. Here’s what to consider:

    1. Your age and current health status.

    2. Tell somebody you’re going out to shovel snow, invite them to come with you.

    3. Proper clothing: shoveling at night? Consider “hi vis” winter wear, dress in layers covering your head and neck. Cover your mouth as breathing cold air can trigger angina or breathing problems. Cold temperatures stress your cardiac system and cause the arteries to contract so blood supply decreases, this can lead to cardiac arrest.

    4. Besides cold temps this type of exercise will strain your muscles. Muscles you probably haven’t used in a while. This will raise your heartbeat and if you’ve got narrowing arteries this is going to be a problem especially in colder temps.

    5. Stretch your muscles before you start, and stay hydrated. Take frequent breaks.

    6. If you’ve had a history of heart disease, high blood pressure, or have elevated cholesterol levels, or are an out of shape couch potato, you should consider getting help with that snow shoveling chore. Perhaps your church or community has a list of volunteers who are happy to help you. Don’t have a snowblower? You might consider one.

    7. Know the signs of heart attack, and keep your cell phone handy to call 911 if necessary.

    Winter snow falls are great times to get out and see the neighbors, just not in the funeral home. So take care of yourself, be prudent, and pray for spring.

  • Completing the Cycle

    It seems that there continues to be a lot of discussion about Safety everywhere, about the cost of safety and training, the providing of it, and government oversight. I am concerned that there is a lot of cheerleading, but not much play on the field. Does this remind you of the current state of our political system?

    You have to question yourself as safety coordinators and managers: Is this an exercise just to satisfy OSHA Government Regulations for compliance or for the betterment of humankind? If you are conducting training classes and doing all the paperwork, your work isn’t quite done. The T’s need to be crossed and the I’s dotted. If you’re conducting Lock Out, Tag Out and not visiting an application in the plant, is the cycle complete? If conducting Slips Trips, and Falls or Machine Guarding and not auditing and correcting deficiencies, is the cycle complete? Or is the cycle ever complete?

    Eventually the numbers will catch up to you. All you need to do is take a look at the citations issued for non-compliance. You’ll find them listed by district under OSHA News releases . A quick look reveals the results of incomplete or broken cycles. It’s almost overwhelming.

    As managers and Safety Advocates we must constantly evaluate the effectiveness of not just the program but of ourselves, are you in a rut? Remember the difference between a rut and a grave is about 3 feet. If we find that we are being crushed by the weight of the program, or the lack of one, then we need to find a way to involve more interactivity among the management, “safety starts at the top,” and employees. We all need to be held responsible for the safety of all at least within the confines of the space we work. safety committeeHow? Establish a safety committee. Train managers in safety auditing procedures. Ask for suggestions, or corrective actions for problem areas from employees, and please tell them not to worry about “Whistle Blowing” the law has them covered. We did discuss that in a previous blog. Lastly one very large part of all of this is to create incentive for individuals to maintain this safety environment.

    Like a computer we all need to re-boot occasionally, just make sure you’re wearing your safety footwear. Ok, so I might be the only one who sees the humor in that joke. Seriously take care of yourself as well. It’s important for not just your health but for the health of those who rely on you for their safety. It’s not just about compliance.

    If you have any questions about establishing a safety committee or safety auditing procedures, feel free to contact our safety experts at www.safetyinstruction.com

  • Child Safety: Things Change

    This morning on my walk into the office I was joined by blurry eyed kids heading for their first day of school. This hasn’t changed, it happens every year about this time, just like Santa Claus at Christmas and the Easter Bunny at Easter. We expect it. For the second year in a row however, I’ve had a youngster stop me and ask where the school is. She was new to the area and in the 3rd or 4th grade, so I walked with her till she could get her bearings. This year a young man riding alone on his bike, was making his way to day #1 of the first grade. He was wearing a ball hat, and a brand new pair of tennis shoes, he politely asked if I knew where his school was. I’ll be honest with you, I was a little surprised and looked around to see if he was alone or there was some hidden camera somewhere. He was confident that I could help him, but there was concern in his eyes, so I tried my best to give him the directions. I soon gave up on it and just walked with him for a few blocks where I could introduce him to Linda the same crossing guard I mentioned in a previous blog. He would be able to recognize her by the HiVis Yellow vest and stop sign. She gave him a warm welcome andcrossing guard with child assured him things were going to be ok and would see him every day on this same corner. He breathed a sigh of relief.

    This is the first day of school, we get messages from safety advocates everywhere to “slow down in school zones,”make sure that when crossing streets you “look both ways and stay in the cross walks, walk together with friends, don’t accept rides from strangers.” There is even a greater presence of law enforcement ensuring the safety of our children. Is it just me? Or are some parents leaving the safety of their children up to others? Are they just too busy? Have things changed while I wasn’t looking? Normally parents and children are excited about the 1st day with new back packs, shoes and maybe a new jacket, or lunch bucket. Moms and dads made sure they get there in one piece so to speak, and safe in their new classroom. And now of course there is the whole issue of bullying and sexual predators.

    Yes maybe things have changed. We must learn to support each other. This reminds me, the crossing guard I referred to in a past blog, and now this one, has cancer, a topic we discussed in a previous blog. So I’m asking you to keep her in your thoughts and prayers, as well as all who are dealing with not just this dreadful disease but all who we rely on to help educate and keep our children safe. We must remember however that we are our children’s first teachers and safety advocates. Yes we need help but our children look to us first. This hasn’t changed. If we don’t teach them, then how will they know to teach their own?

  • Distracted Driving: A Broken Rock

    “What could really happen if I text or make a call while driving? It’s just a quick call or text I can do both and drive safely. I’m a good driver.” That is what most drivers think till something happens: Distracted Driving. I would like to introduce you to Shelley Forney. She’s a Mother with a story she’s willing to share.

    “My name is Shelley and I am sharing with you just what happened to my daughter Erica due to one of those quick cell phone calls. Our lives changed forever in 2008, when our 9 year old Erica was struck and killed just 15 pedals on her bike from our front door. The driver was distracted by a phone call. Erica died on Thanksgiving Day from severe brain damage. This crash was 100% preventable, if only the driver knew what she was doing was dangerous even more, deadly. I wanted to share with you a piece I wrote called A Perfectly Broken Rock. It is one of many I have written, expressing how our hearts can be so broken after a loss and it’s ok to be broken. Writing how you feel throughout a life change can be healing while coping with the change a loss can bring.”

    Heart Shaped Rock Broken rock in the shape of a heart found by Shelley.

    The Perfectly Broken Rock

    The memory trees were barren. The bows that I had been hanging for years had blown some time ago and I didn’t have any to replace them. A friend recently found some bows that I had made in her basement. Since she had helped me switch out the bows with holiday ones, they had gotten misplaced. Now returning them to me to hang up on our memory trees. The area by these trees is where my daughter landed, after being struck by a distracted driver on a cell phone, just around the corner from our home in 2008. Today I walked with my youngest daughter Valerie of 9 to hang them up. I was careful while wrapping ribbon up and down and around the flowery bows with sunflowers tucked inside. Erica had loved sunflowers and owls, so of course that is what I added to them. My little one returned to the house, while I walked slowly back to my home. Along the way, I had noticed a rock that seemed to come from nowhere. As we had walked down the side walk, I didn’t recall it, but there it was now. I had past it and then turned around to see if what I saw laying in the grass was what I thought I saw. I leaned down to pick up a perfectly broken rock. Why was this broken rock worth turning around for? I will explain this odd story to you. Since the death of my sweet adoring Erica in 2008, I have been finding heart shaped items all over. While on vacation with my family, I found 9 heart shaped rocks. All colors, shapes… I felt that this was a sign and a gift from her. It was a reminder that she will always be with us. Just a few hours ago, I had given a talk about distracted driving to employees for the city I live in. It is difficult to do this, as every time I give these talks, I also share our story of loss. As my heart was reminded again that she is no longer with us. Erica proved to me that she isn’t gone she is with us. She gave me a gift today it was a “perfectly broken rock in the shape of a heart.” It wasn’t a perfect shape, but there were parts that were smooth and polished and the other areas that were jagged and broken. I saw the rock with a shape I could relate too. I sat on my porch feeling all the edges with my hand. This is how I see my heart; sometimes polished and smooth, yet very broken and jagged. I am grateful I found this perfectly broken rock. It’s just like me.

    Erica’s mom is now an Independent Safety Speaker sharing her story and more on the topic of distracted driving. Did you know that one out of every 4 car crashes that will happen today will be due to a driver on a cell phone call or texting while driving?

    If you would like to talk to Shelley about a possible presentation for your company/group, she can be reached at (970) 691-5997 or by email at shelleyfor@msn.com. She also can be found on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/pub/shelley-forney/4b/62b/229kedIn

    We share in Shelley’s loss, and want to encourage all who are reading this to pass it along. It can happen to you or to someone you love, there are no “do overs.” If you’ve ever had to say good bye to a loved one, especially a child, you can understand the pain it causes and the memories that will recur forever.

  • Safety as a Vocation

    A Vocation is a calling, a calling to something higher. It becomes your life’s work, your mission, your purpose, your passion.

    Daily I work with safety advocates who exercise that purpose, their passion. Thesafety is a must job they perform ensures that millions of workers get home to their families at the end of the day. For those of you who are in school and considering a career and vocation in health and safety, it’s a noble vocation and a great career choice; take it serious, because unfortunately not all will make it home. It’s a brutal reality; nobody wants to hear about it, it means something went horribly wrong. Safety professionals deal with it and will work tirelessly to find out what went wrong and correct conditions, attitudes and environment where necessary. Now you will face the family who suffered the loss and or injury. This family also includes co-workers. Additionally they must answer to OSHA on behalf of the employer.

    A vocation follows you home. You sometimes lay awake at night figuring out how to make safety relevant in the lives of those who you serve. Safety is not just another job. As a safety provider we furnish tools for training, power point presentations, safety videos, “on line training”, entire programs. In the hands of a professional with a purpose they are wonderful; otherwise these become lifeless as well.

    So you see, it takes a special person to answer the call to this vocation. The good news is there are far more successes than failures. Enjoy the rest of your summer. If you are a safety professional thank you for making it your vocation. If you are an employee working for a company with a safety professional then find time to thank them, and be a part of their commitment and mission to get you home to your family safely.

  • The Eyes Have It: Cataracts

    The Eyes Have It


    In the last year we’ve been looking at some health issues including cancer due to exposure to the sun, and the effects of tanning. The sun a very necessary part of how we exist, but does present some problems for us as we reported earlier. When I was younger, and needed to look cool, you would wear your white tee shirt rolled up, that pack of cigarettes in your sleeve and put on a pair of “Shades,“ Aviator style.. Did I just date myself? The problem was I wore glasses so I had to wear expensive prescription sunglasses or the clip on style, from the drug store or gas station. How do you spell “NERD?” Over the years of course, the over the glasses styles got better and photo grey lenses became popular, all in an effort to be cool.

    As I grew older, I noticed that my parents did too. Go figure. Dad especially didn’t like to drive at night, he was in his early 70’s then, and so nighttime driving became a challenge for him and the family. Dad mentioned that he just didn’t see well at night. Yes I had the “Is there a problem Dad” Speech with him. He agreed to have his eyes checked. I told him the same thing he used to tell me “stop reading those @#$% magazines or you are going to go blind.” I told him I would stop when I had to get glasses. We both laughed. We weren’t laughing however when the optometrist told him he had cataracts in both eyes that needed to be removed. Dad has since passed away, but I learned a valuable lesson about protecting your eyes, from the sun especially as we age.

    Below is some valuable information from “The National Eye Institute

    A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision. Most cataracts are cataractsrelated to aging. Cataracts are very common in older people. By age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery.

    A cataract can occur in either or both eyes. It cannot spread from one eye to the other.

    You do not have to be a senior citizen to get cataracts it can start in your 40’s

    The most common symptoms of a cataract are:

    -Cloudy or blurry vision. -Colors seem faded. -Glare. Headlights, lamps, or sunlight may appear too bright. A halo may appear around lights. -Poor night vision. -Double vision or multiple images in one eye. (This symptom may clear as the cataract gets larger.) -Frequent prescription changes in your eyeglasses or contact lenses. -These symptoms also can be a sign of other eye problems. If you have any of these symptoms, check with your eye care professional.

    Wearing sunglasses and a hat with a brim to block ultraviolet sunlight may help to delay cataract. If you smoke, stop. Researchers also believe good nutrition can help reduce the risk of age-related cataract. They recommend eating green leafy vegetables, fruit, and other foods with antioxidants.

    The risk of cataract increases as you get older. Other risk factors for cataract include:

    -Certain diseases such as diabetes. -Personal behavior such as smoking and alcohol use. -The environment such as prolonged exposure to sunlight.

    For more information about cataracts, what they are, where they come from, and how they can be prevented and treated please visit the Link above.

    Why is this information important? Our work force is aging and it can become a serious safety factor in the workplace. We’ve discussed behavior based safety and looking out for one another on numerous occasions. Be a part of a push to encourage proper eye wear and make sunglasses a part of your personal safety routine for PPE even in the winter when the glare from the snow causes you to squint. Protect your eyes you only get one set!

  • Is the Sun Eating You Alive?

    I’m a safety advocate, and I can tell you that cancer is not a word I want my doctor to talk to me about. I can tell you that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States according to the “Skin Cancer Foundation.” I can tell you that you need to protect yourself prevent skin cancerand your loved ones from the harmful rays of the sun by wearing the correct PPE, and Sun Block. I can tell you that people do indeed die from this. I can tell you to stay out of tanning beds. Those of you who work outdoors are more at risk. Your mother used to tell you to wear a hat when it was winter, she’s telling you now to wear a hat to protect yourself from the sun Below are the things I can’t tell you and is better left to those who can.

    The following information is taken from multiple sources including the “Skin Cancer Foundation”:

    Your skin works as a barrier to protect your body against things like water loss, bacteria, and other harmful contaminants. The outermost layer, the epidermis, is the layer in constant contact with the environment. While it sheds skin cells regularly, it can sustain damage from the sun, infection, or cuts and scrapes. The epidermis is made up of several different types of cells.

    Basal cells make up the lowest layer of the epidermis, the basal layer. Cancer inside this area is known as basal cell carcinoma, and it comprises about 80 percent of all cases of skin cancer (Columbia University, 2009). Most common in the head and neck, basal cell carcinoma is a slow-growing cancer that rarely spreads to other parts of the body. It usually shows on skin as raised, waxy pink bumps. Infiltrative basal cell carcinoma can appear translucent with blood vessels near the skin’s surface.

    Squamous cell carcinoma affects cells in the middle layer of the epidermis. It is typically more aggressive than basal cell carcinoma. It appears as red, scaly, and rough skin lesions, typically on sun-exposed areas such as the hands, head, neck, lips, and ears. Similar red patches may be squamous cell carcinoma in situ (Bowen’s disease), the earliest form of squamous cell cancer.

    Less common than other types, melanoma is by far the most dangerous, causing about 75 percent of all skin cancer-related deaths (American Melanoma Foundation, 2009). It occurs in the skin cells that create pigment, and it creates moles or lesions that follow an ABCDE pattern in their irregularities:

    - asymmetrical shape - border irregularities - color - diameter - evolution of the lesion

    While there are several different types of skin cancers, most share the same risk factors, including:

    - prolonged exposure to UV rays found in sunlight - being over the age of 40 - family history of skin cancer - fair complexion - organ transplant

    However, young people or those with dark complexion can still develop skin cancer.

    The quicker skin cancer is detected, the better the long-term outlook. Check your skin regularly. If you notice abnormalities, consult a dermatologist for a complete examination. Learn how to self-examine your skin.


    Wear Sunblock containing both UVA and UVB Protection. Chemical sunscreens, such as those containing the ingredient Mexoryl, work by absorbing damaging ultraviolet light. Physical sunscreens, such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, reflect light like an armored coating rather than absorb it.

    Wear Sun Protective Clothing

    Wear long-sleeves, pants or a long-skirt, and a broad-brimmed hat to help shield your skin from the sun's harmful rays. It's also important to protect your eyes. Wear sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays.

    Avoid the Sun at Prime Hours

    The sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Therefore, those are the times when you are more likely to get a sunburn or receive sun damage. Staying out of the sun during those hours by remaining indoors or seeking shade under an umbrella can help prevent skin cancer.

    There you have it. We are sometimes our own worst enemies we are a vain breed and we chase after the latest good look at the risk of our health. Let the buyer beware. Life is too short to suffer the effects of vanity. Please wear protection against the effects of the sun even on cloudy days, and self-inspect.

  • How Did You Know

    Late one night I was returning home on a narrow, winding, two lane road through farm country. It was rainy and the fog was thick, making it hard to see. Abruptly, there in my headlights, was what I believed to be a very large pig. Unable to avoid him I felt a sickening thud. I immediately pulled over, but couldn’t see anything. There was nobody else around and the weather was nasty, so I continued home. Shortly after getting on my slippers, there was a knock on the door. Who could it be this late at night? I opened the door and there stood two uniformed state Police Officers. They questioned me and wanted to know if I had traveled on state highway 21 tonight, and did I drive a red SUV. I had to admit that I did. “Sir” he said “we’re going to have to cite you for leaving the scene.” Curiosity got the best of me; I just had to know how they knew. The officer looked me in the eye “Well” he said “the pig squealed.”whistleblower

    So if you are an employee and you see and unsafe situation or something you feel crosses the line in violation of OSHA requirements, or general safety, do you know the correct protocol for reporting it? Of course if there is imminent danger to life etc., then you need to get help immediately! If not, then your company should have a line of progression or protocol for reporting issues whether it be machine guarding, environmental, trenching, confined space, and on and on. Talk to your HHS Person and volunteer to help. Take a course in “Process Safety Management.”

    So what if no one is paying attention? Or just doesn’t care. We see that in the OSHA News and fines every month. Now what? Call your OSHA Representative 800-321-OSHA. You are not the pig that squealed. You could be saving a life!! This is your responsibility! Further “Whistle Blowers” are protected not just in our industry but in our country in general. Don’t be afraid to get involved. You are also protected from retaliation. Know what your rights are under the “Sarbanes-Oxley Act”. Recently OSHA Trade News announced the final rule on procedures for handling retaliation complaints.

    Remember OSHA’s General Duty clause: Each Employer must furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.

  • OSHA News, Are We Paying Attention?

    I visit the OSHA website for recent news and fines fairly frequently, to see whose getting nicked for violations and what the violations are. I’m not sure why they publicize them, but it sure can be interesting, and eye opening. January did not disappoint, there were 37 news releases regarding enforcement and citations for violations. Just reading through these gives one reason to just shake your head and wonder: What are they thinking? Or not? Wile E. Coyote never had a OSHA safetymonth like this.

    Blast turns Fatal Death of Welder who fell from misused forklift Lack of fall Protection in worker Fatality Repeated safety Hazards 2 workers injured 1 fatally 2 workers succumb to dangerous fumes Construction fatality results in citations For the third time, OSHA finds roofing contractor allows fatal fall hazards

    The list reads like a bad novel or horror story, and the February list is already growing. If you’re reading this article then you are probably a concerned Safety Advocate. In the past we’ve discussed just about everything you’ll find in the violations OSHA is reporting on their website. Fall protection, fork lift safety, confined space, you name it we have even discussed repeat violations.

    Perhaps the site is a good venue for displaying the overall cost of the violations committed and the senseless loss of life, along with the violators. I may have mis-spoke my question of why. It needs to start somewhere. I understand that safety is everybody’s responsibility but reading this is frustrating. I do applaud all of you out there who are concerned about proper training, and make an effort to make sure that training, and retraining is delivered. Somehow however not everybody got the memo.

    Here’s our challenge as a safety community, we need to seek out other venues to share our information. Don’t overlook your local newspaper, sponsor a safety column. Social media is the current darling of information disbursement, learn how to use it. Preaching to the choir gets old and doesn’t get our message to the right people. Average Americans don’t read safety magazines. Have your company sponsor a safety rodeo for young people. And make sure the media is there. If you’re a Union this is a great way to give back to the community, and to show people that unions are still relevant. We all need to be relevant, and sooner than later.

  • Watching Out for Each Other is a Daily Routine

    It’s still cold in Wisconsin, and forecasters are predicting another wave of arctic air for today and the rest of the weekend with high winds. So, as a safety advocate I checked out my PPE. I stepped out into the morning air. It was 4 degrees and the wind is coming out of the northwest. It takes me about 30 minutes to walk to work. The forecasters were right; maybe I should have worked "On Line” This morning

    As I’m walking my mind does wander a bit, and I’m thinking about a blog topic. I live in a small village in northeastern WI, where everybody knows everybody. As I turned the corner and headed into the west wind I could hear the snowplow. Looking up, I could see a “Hi-Vis arm reach out of the window and wave hello and honk the horn. I continued my crossing guardjourney. It’s about this time that the early morning church goers are heading for home, and the school bus driver is making her rounds. We wave every day, acknowledging the routine like a daily safety meeting. I do join the Church goers on Wednesdays just to keep my head screwed on straight. It’s like meeting with management. I’m almost there, and a car pulls up to see if I need a ride. I have to admit I was pretty tempted, but if I wanted a doughnut at the bakery I needed to finish the walk. The last person I see and exchange Hi’s before I get to the office is the lady crossing guard. She’s been on that corner for as long as I can remember; helping others cross the busy main street on their way to school. We’re both praying for spring to get here soon.

    It was then that I realized that looking out for each other is a part of what we do. This includes safety, and acknowledging others as we pass through our day at work, whether its manufacturing, the office, teaching, public agencies, or in the hospitality industry, it is a very important part of developing the safety culture that we keep referring to. Behavioral safety starts with you, the minute you roll back your eyelids when the alarm clock goes off. This type of human partnership reduces stress in the workplace, at home, and yes on vacation. Ok I’m here now my glasses are fogged up and I’m thinking about finding tickets to someplace warm. Maybe I’ll get a doughnut and a cup of coffee first.

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