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Safety Instruction Blog

  • 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.

  • Safety, It's Not a Spectator Sport

    Over the last couple of years, we’ve discussed a lot of safety topics relevant to work and play, employer and family, occupation and hobbies. Still the one quote that stands out in my mind is from a safety director in Florida named Jim. Jim was also in charge of news releases, and making arrangements for unsafe acts that went horribly wrong. In 2013, The United States Department of Labor reported 4,405 workers died on the job. Jim said these sobering words:

    “Safety is no joke when you have to stand in front of a widow.”safety is everyones responsibility

    In my personal life I’m a Father of six, and a Grandfather. I’ve also been in the United States Army Reserve USAR, and finished a short career there as a recruiter along with a close friend. Jack and I would visit schools and families looking for warm bodies to join us. This was during the Vietnam era, so we didn’t have a very welcoming crowd. We did however, find that the younger the audience, the more impressed they were with our uniforms, message and story.

    In our Church I’ve been a volunteer instructor for a long time, nobody is keeping score so I don’t know for how many years. I know my hair wasn’t the grey color I’m sporting today. These young minds are like sponges, they are full of life and anxious to learn. Last night my 6th graders arm wrestled with the pastor. As a father, it seemed when the kids were younger they were more ready to listen and learn, of course they had to wait till they were 16 to learn to drive a car, although there was a blurred line there.

    My experience tells me that skills need to be taught early and often. I would urgently request that as safety advocates, instructors, and providers, we need to continue to search for ways to convey the message, or preach the gospel, and make it stick. Safety is not a spectator sport!

    The safety industry offers so many more alternatives today for organizing and training, starting with behavioral training both online and in the classroom and up to date videos including gory stories. Safety training now reaches into our schools and hospitality industry. We need to remind and encourage our learners to take their skills from the classroom not just into the plant, school or place of employment, but home to their families where you are your children’s first and most important teacher. Don’t allow yourself or a member of your family to become a 2015 statistic.

    If you looking to revamp your safety program in 2015, let the safety experts at SafetyInstruction.com help. Contact us and we can help you make 2015 a safer year!

  • One Flu Over

    Every year I’m reminded that I need to get a physical; My wife reminds me, the doctor’s office reminds me, my kids remind me – you get the picture. Alright, alright, I’m going already. There is just something about that annual physical that I just can’t get too excited about. Maybe it’s the “turn your head left and cough”, or there’s the whole “bend over thing and you’ll feel a little pressure.”

    This year though the routine was a little different. As I walked into the clinic, the first questions fluwere: “Have you traveled outside the US, and have you been to Africa, or come into contact with anyone who has?” In mid-October we discussed the “Ebola scare” and yes it was justifiable and seemed appropriate that a plan was needed to stem what might have been an epidemic that would potentially kill thousands. To date there have been less than 5 here in the US. Now I’m standing in a waiting room with other patients some wearing face masks with children in tow. Are you aware that according to the government’s Center for disease control CDC, that in the last three years there has been over 300 pediatric deaths related to the Flu and its related symptoms here in the US? That’s a horrible number.

    As Safety and HR professionals, do we have a responsibility here? Well if I understand the “General Duty Clause” ( Pub. Law 91-596 section 5(a)(1)) published by OSHA. Then the answer is yes. These are hazards and conditions not covered under an OSHA standard. What can we do? I’m going to reprint a portion of that Blog from October, with a few minor changes:

    “We need to be proactive and develop an overall general “staying healthy in a work environment plan." The flu season is now here in a big way and avoiding the flu with proper sanitation is the key, both personal and environmental. Proper hand washing, sanitizing work surfaces where practical, more than periodic cleaning and sanitizing of the restrooms, checking air filtration systems, EDUCATION. Making employees aware of coughing and sneezing, refresh your Blood borne pathogens training. Encourage your employees, and their families to get a flu shot and to make sure the rest of their inoculations are up to date, eat healthy and drink plenty of fluids, all this will help to improve overall immunity to illness and disease." Additionally if you experience any symptoms of the Flu, STAY HOME, and see your doctor or healthcare professional.

    We need to take this serious. It’s not like it’s a surprise, it comes every year. Prevention is the key to controlling any type of Illness. So educating ourselves, employees and families, is imperative and preparing for it should be done early and often.

    Now regarding my physical. I’m scheduled for a colonoscopy, but that is a whole other uncomfortable topic we should discuss another time.

  • Let's Talk LMS: Learning Management System

    According to the definition found on “Wikipedia” A learning management system (LMS) is a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting and delivery of electronic educational technology (also called e-learning) education courses or training programs. Lately there has been a lot of conversation regarding” on line” training versus classroom training. For the most part we are all familiar with classroom or instructor lead training. We know the attributes of such training, and its traditional place in the workforce. If you’re the student then you are also aware of the downside of classroom training, including boredom. I’ve been told that “The Mind can absorb what the seat can endure” As an employer you are also aware of the downsides. This would include the cost of bringing your employees in from a production line or job site, where no time is convenient, and not everyone can attend, now what? Finding an outside presenter if you don’t have a competent or qualified person can also be a challenge and expensive. The upside is you can get everyone together and with a good instructor you can get the training you need including the “hands on” portion of the training, not found in “on line” training. The emphasis here is on “Good Instructor” Like any training it needs to be engaging, interactive, and to the point. On Line training offers a broad range of topics which can be taken anytime the employee has internet access, so it becomes more cost and time effective. Like classroom training, it also needs to engage, and challenge the learner with interactive questions and scenarios enabling the learner to retain more of the material offered. Additionally the topic should be given in bite sized chunks with questions to follow, versus one large test at the end which can be very intimidating for some. Of course you would want a contact person to be available for any questions the learner might have. Once the learner has successfully passed the course a certificate should be awarded and a permanent record of his successful course enrollment created. No need for costly record keeping. You will still need a written safety plan or overall company safety policy, made available to your employees for viewing. What better way than to post it as a resource to your LMS LMS systems buck the traditional way of teaching and not all “Learning Management Systems” are the same. Some are really well put together, some not so much, including poor content. What if you could get all of the above in an LMS. An “on line” experience with engaging content, one that encompasses even classroom, and hands on training, record keeping, and a system that could remind employees of their training obligations? Make a check list of those properties you would want in any type of system be it traditional or “On Line” and Shop carefully. Of course measuring its success is still the most important part of any safety program. So, in saying this I would highly recommend starting out with “behavioral” based safety training. This will help to establish that safety culture that is so important in today’s industry. That’s what I call the “Buy in Factor”. Without the employee “buy in factor” not just employees but also management as well, nothing will work. This type of training can be done on line or in a classroom, but is a great place to start the conversation. So again choose wisely, ask questions, take the program for a test drive, understand the needs of the employees and management. From everyone at SafetyInstruction, make it a Safer 2015! Interested in an LMS? Click here for more information on SafetyInstruction's Learning Management System.

  • Harassment: Beware the Company Holiday Parties

    Tis the time of the year for holiday parties, employee get togethers, lunch room gatherings, and “a good time was had by all,” well maybe not. These times are also prime opportunities for “Harassment,” the verbal, nonverbal, or unwanted physical contact, based on sex, gender, sexual orientation, religion or race.

    Harassment is more than a little good natured teasing. I have to admit that I can be a bit of a christmaspartyharassmentteaser. My wife, who doesn’t tolerate teasing too well, will let me know in no uncertain terms, when I’ve gotten too close to the line, and it becomes offensive, the room suddenly starts to get cold. Of course, it’s not that simple and it can be very complicated. We don’t all have the luxury of having that loving reminder; it will just show up as a law suit, a pink slip, or a broken relationship.

    The EEOC (United States Equal Employment Opportunity commission) Publishes a statement regarding Harassment. The following is an excerpt from that statement

    Harassment is a form of employment discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, (ADA).

    Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive. Anti-discrimination laws also prohibit harassment against individuals in retaliation for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or lawsuit under these laws; or opposing employment practices that they reasonably believe discriminate against individuals, in violation of these laws.

    Petty slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) will not rise to the level of illegality. To be unlawful, the conduct must create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people.

    Offensive conduct may include, but is not limited to, offensive jokes, slurs, epithets or name calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, offensive objects or pictures, and interference with work performance. Harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including, but not limited to, the following:

    The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, a supervisor in another area, an agent of the employer, a co-worker, or a non-employee.

    The victim does not have to be the person harassed, but can be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.

    Unlawful harassment may occur without economic injury to, or discharge of, the victim.

    For the complete statement visit http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/harassment.cfm

    Harassment affects everybody; the offender and the immediate victim, as well as those unintended victims. Those victims can include your co-workers, management, and most of all your family, and pocketbook. Management does have a responsibility under the guidelines of the EEOC to provide training and education regarding harassment of any kind. On line training is also a very effective and inexpensive tool. Now go and enjoy your Holiday eggnog, and from all of us here at Safetyinstruction.com have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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